“The Trivium provides the tools of learning, Scripture and the classics furnish the core content, and biblical truth is the fixed point of reference. The Trivium is the hammer, the classics are the wood, and the Bible is the ruler.” – Gregg Strawbridge, Classical and Christian Education – Recapturing the Educational Approach of the Past
AN OVERVIEW OF CLASSICAL EDUCATION
Classical methodology was born in ancient Greece and Rome, and by the 16th century, it was used throughout the Western world. This system educated most of America’s founding fathers as well as the world’s philosophers, scientists and leaders between the 10th and 19th centuries. What other period can claim so many advances in science, philosophy, art, and literature? In the last 30 years, there has been a revival of this proven method of education.
Rigorous academic standards, a dedication to order and discipline, and a focus on key, “lost” subjects is fueling the rapid growth of the nation’s classical schools. There is no greater task for education than to teach students how to learn. The influence of “progressive” teaching methods and the oversimplification of textbooks make it difficult for students to acquire the mental discipline that traditional instruction methods once cultivated.
The classical method develops independent learning skills on the foundation of language, logic, and tangible fact. The classical difference is clear when students are taken beyond conventionally taught subjects and asked to apply their knowledge through logic and clear expression. For education to be effective, it must go beyond conveying fact. Truly effective education cultivates thinking and articulate students who are able to develop facts into arguments and convey those arguments clearly and persuasively.
In her 1947 essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” Dorothy Sayers, a pioneer in the return to classical education, observed “although we often succeed in teaching our pupils ‘subjects,’ we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think.” Beyond subject matter, classical education develops those skills that are essential in higher education and throughout life – independent scholarship, critical thinking, logical analysis, and a love for learning.
Download “The Lost Tools of Learning” essay.
Sayers articulated the concept of the Trivium, an educational model that had been used for centuries. When Douglas Wilson founded Logos School in Moscow, Idaho during the 1980s, he revived this framework to bring about the rebirth of classical education complemented with a biblical worldview. Presently, over 250 Association of Classical Christian Schools are operating in the United States and this is expanding globally.
The Trivium is simply a means of describing the learning stages of a child’s development. Parents often recognize the stages through which their children pass as they mature. The Trivium focuses and directs the educational methods to best develop a knowledgeable, thinking, and articulate student. As the name implies, there are three stages (or ways) represented in the Trivium: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.
Grammar – Grades K-6
During the Grammar phase, children are particularly adept at memorization. Young children learn songs, rhymes, and recite facts with relative ease. Because young children are so eager to memorize that they will make up non-sensical playground rhymes, we challenge them by providing substantial subject matter for them to memorize. Each subject has its own grammar. In science, children memorize facts about nature. In math, children memorize multiplication tables. In Latin, teachers emphasize vocabulary. Throughout each year in Grammar School, classically educated children learn the factual foundation of each subject. We use songs, chants, and rhymes to help children enjoy the learning experience.
Logic – Grades 7-9
The Logic phase involves ordering facts into organized statements and arguments. During the middle school years, children are beginning to think independently. They often develop a propensity for argument. Classical education teaches children in this phase to argue well. The study of formal logic helps students understand the fundamentals of a good argument. Practice in making written and oral arguments helps to further develop these skills. Teachers encourage the use of argumentation in each subject. Again, each subject has its own logic. In science, we use the development and testing of hypothesis. In math, we develop a student’s ability to logically orient numbers through the more abstract concepts of algebra and trigonometry.
Rhetoric – Grades 10-12
Rhetoric is the art of communicating well. Once a student has obtained a knowledge of the facts (grammar) and developed the skills necessary to arrange those facts into arguments (logic), he must develop the skill of communicating those arguments to others (rhetoric). During the high school years, students become concerned with what others think of them. Classical education helps students develop their minds to think and articulate concepts to others. Writing papers, researching, and orating ideas are skills required in all subjects. In these grade levels, the goal is to create a well-rounded student who can communicate effectively. We leverage these skills through the final requirement of the defense of a senior thesis. While each component has a primary focus during a particular phase, all skills are developed during all levels. A second grader will develop certain skills in logic and rhetoric. A high school student will still acquire extensive knowledge in specific subjects. Emphasis is simply placed on different phases during different ages.
A BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW
A worldview is one’s view of life, stemming from personal convictions, assumptions, and interpretations of the world. With this in mind, it is impossible to have neutral education. Gregg Strawbridge explains, “It is simply educationally unavoidable that world and life view values are communicated, both in what is stated and what is implied.”
Strawbridge then illustrates the difference between a secular and biblical worldview education as this: “A Christian worldview, in comparison to non-Christian worldviews, requires that every area of life be committed to Christ, sanctified under His lordship, and maintained for His glory. The lordship of Christ in this grand way, over and in all of life, must be evident throughout the curriculum. A mere Bible class or a weekly chapel sprinkled on vanilla education is simply not Christian education.”
HRCA was founded upon the parental responsibility to “bring children up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) This does not mean that there is forced indoctrination, which eventually becomes ineffective and not life-changing for our students. Rather, a biblical worldview is blending Christian values and teachings into all subjects. It is recognizing that God is at the core of it all and how His character is revealed in all areas of life.
For example: God first spoke to man in word and still today through His Word, The Bible. How awesome is it that we can communicate with one another through language, hence why we study English and other languages. Or, how amazing it is that math is always exact, coming from a God who is perfect and orderly. Likewise, we see tremendous value in great works of art, music, literature and more, even if they are not Christian-based. “It is just because we have a sure standard of evaluation in God’s Word that we can be ‘in the world’ but not ‘of the world,’ educationally.” For example, Paul, one of the Bible’s greatest missionaries, was grounded in his faith, yet capable of knowing his audiences and their cultures.