top of page

​ACADEMICS

What Do We Mean by Classical Education?

 

Classical education begins with a particular understanding of what an education is. Education, in the classical sense, is the proper formation of the human soul and mind (intellect) through coming to know what is true and good in order that the student might do good and live according to the truth. The goal of education is the cultivation of mind and soul in order to reap the fruit of virtue. Classical schooling cooperates with church and family by giving particular attention to the right ordering of the student’s mind and soul, cultivated for the growth of virtue.

The ancient Greeks and Roman civilizations were periods of growth and advancement. Over 2500 years ago, these cultures developed an education system that continued up until the 20th century. Known as the Liberal Arts, they were the essential tools a free person (from the Latin liberalis: “worthy of a free person”) must know to become a functioning member of society. The Liberal Arts represent seven different fields. The first three of the Liberal Arts are called the Trivium. They are Grammar, Logic/Dialectic, and Rhetoric. The final four are called the Quadrivium. The Quadrivium consists of Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music.

 

The Trivium (Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric) are the oldest, foundational, and most venerable of the Liberal Arts. These three Arts form the building blocks of all learning.

 

Grammar is, as its name indicates, the learning of the rudiments of language, as well as the learning of facts which spills forth to all subject areas. The study of Classical languages is taught at an early age and is vital to thinking clearly and systematically. Learning Classical languages serves as the doorway to another goal: engaging the great literature of the culture throughout history.

 

Logic/Dialectic is the mechanics of thought and analysis. Students learn to think analytically and critically about any subject matter- whether through the formulation of proofs in Algebra and Geometry, or through proper paragraph construction and developing and supporting a thesis in Writing. The classical student will strive to uncover falsehood in the active pursuit of truth.

 

The Art of Rhetoric is the culmination of the Trivium. It develops the classical student to be a persuasive speaker and writer. Students learn to communicate confidently and eloquently. This Art is applied in all academic subjects.

Why study Latin and Classical Greek?

 

“To read Latin and Greek authors in their original, is a sublime luxury. I thank on my knees him who directed my early education for having put into my possession this rich source of delight; and I would not exchange it for anything which I could then have acquired, and have not since acquired.” – Thomas Jefferson

 

Latin and Classical Greek are two languages studied in Classical education. Both languages provide an outstanding educational foundation. Over 70% of all English words have roots of Latin or Greek origin. In the medical science and technology fields the figure rises to 90%. All modern Romance Languages (Spanish, French, Italian, and Romanian) are based on Latin roots. It is much easier to learn one of these modern languages when one first has a foundation of Latin. Moreover, the study of Latin and Greek demand a very high level of competence in grammar. By learning these languages at an early age, children have a grasp of grammar that is unmatched by most high school students. Acquiring such a competence with grammar stretches the mind and carries over to excelling in all subject areas. Most children even find these languages to be fun.

 

According to the National Committee in Latin and Greek, the study of these languages has proven to help students’ performance on college entrance exams. High school students with two or more years of Latin typically score 140-160 points higher on the SAT than their peers who did not study Latin. Also, the publishers of the SAT found that students with a background in Latin had higher scores in critical reading than students who learned another language. Students with a background in Greek scored the next highest.

 

“Hardly any lawful price would seem to me too high for what I have gained by being made to learn Latin and Greek.” -C.S. Lewis

 

The Modern-Day Revival of Classical Education 

 

Modern education has been faulted for being utilitarian, for preparing children for the workplace, rather than equipping them to seek after truth, beauty, and goodness. Modernists believe that this type of education, with its focus on quantifiable skills, is what children need in our competitive world. Acquiring facts and learning through rote memorization, they say, is an antiquated way of learning. This is the information age, the argument goes, so just look it up. But with all the information readily available, can our children discern what is true, beautiful, and good? Classical education maintains that children need a body of core knowledge; facts and skills, and a normative model of the human being—an answer to the question “What is Man?”

 

With its demand that we return to our civilization’s roots, classical education explores the radical content of our greatest thinkers, inviting us to follow where that journey may lead. Classical education emphasizes the interconnectedness of all knowledge (rather than siloing information into subjects independent of each other) and recognizes the importance of learning how to learn by mastering the tools for learning: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. As Perrin (2004) puts it, “Students who have mastered language, that is, who have mastered grammar and vocabulary, logical reasoning, and persuasive, eloquent speaking and writing [rhetoric]—these students have the requisite tools necessary to study and master any subject they choose. We might hope they will be ready for college and the rest of their life” (p. 29).

 

Sayers (1947) understood that children in the earliest grades relish memorizing and recalling information (through rhymes, songs, call and response, and other similar methods) when she called this period the Poll-parrot stage. It is, also, commonly referred to as the Grammar stage due to its role in building knowledge of facts, which are foundational elements for learning. Next comes the Pertness stage, “characterized by contradicting, answering-back, liking to ‘catch people out’” (p. 11). At this phase in their development, children demonstrate an inclination to “interminable argument” (p. 14), which is a sign that they are ready to develop their powers of reasoning through debating and discussing, as well as through the formal study of logic (Perrin, 2004). Around their eighth grade year, when children are finally ready to use their factual knowledge and their ability to think logically, they enter the Poetic stage (Sayers, 1947). Here begins students’ acquisition of effective and persuasive speaking and writing skills (Perrin, 2004).

 

These three stages map onto that touchstone of classical education, the Trivium, consisting of Grammar, which leverages the Poll-Parrot’s love of all sorts of rules, drills and procedures; Logic, which builds upon Pert’s inclination to question and argue to develop their reasoning and communication skills; and Rhetoric, where the student acquires the art of persuasion by channeling the Poet’s need to be expressive.

 

References

 

Perrin, C. A. (2004). The introduction to classical education: A guide for parents. Camp Hill, PA: Classical Academic Press. Retrieved from: http://classicalsubjects.com/resources/ICE.pdf 

 

Sayers, D. L. (1947). The lost tools of learning: Paper read at a vacation course in education. London, U.K.: Methuen & Co. Ltd. Retrieved from: https://www.pccs.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/LostToolsOfLearning-DorothySayers.pdf

Want to learn more about Classical Education?

Here is a short list of useful resources:

 

What is Classical Education?

by: CiRCE Institute

 

An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents

by: Christopher A. Perrin

 

Read About Classical Christian Education

by: Association of Classical Christian Schools

 

Conventional Christian Education vs. Classical Christian Education

by: Association of Classical Christian Schools

 

Recovering Education

by: Association of Classical Christian Schools

A Collection of Videos and Print Materials on Classical Christian Education

by: The Classical Difference

 

Geronimo! Amen

by: Association of Classical Christian Schools

bottom of page