It was my first year of teaching when I was introduced to the concept of classical education. I fell in love immediately, mainly because it made so much sense! It was then that I knew that I either wanted to teach in a school that followed the classical curriculum, or at the very least, I wanted my children to be taught in such a school.
What is Classical Education?
Why it’s only the best idea since peanut butter, and it has been around longer. Rather than being a new form of education, it is a return to the way education once was. It focuses on the Trivium. Tri, meaning three, refers to the three stages of teaching: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Amazingly enough, these three stages correspond to a child’s brain development. It seems our forefathers knew what they were doing before science confirmed it. Imagine that!
The Grammar Stage (Grades K-5)
The grammar stage focuses primarily on memorization. This is where the foundation for the rest of the child’s education is built. The part that I find so appealing is that this memorization stage comes at a point in a child’s life when his or her brain is specifically geared toward soaking in new information. Some argue that it is too difficult for most children because it is a rigorous curriculum that studies Latin and classical writings. I say that since these are the parent languages of our language, this is a necessity for understanding the English language and deducting the meaning of a word without being familiar with it beforehand. This will come in especially handy when the student takes his SAT’s. And as for the argument that it is too hard, they would be surprised at what this age-group is capable of doing when it involves songs, rhymes, and chants.
The Logic Stage (Grades 6-8)
As every middle school parent and teacher knows, middle school students love to argue. And guess what? They aren’t always just trying to be argumentative; their brain is developing something called logic. They are trying to piece together the world around them and figure out why things work that way. They don’t just want you to tell them that the sky is blue; they want to figure out why it is blue. In the same way, the logic stage focuses on reasoning skills. Middle school students love debate, and that’s exactly what classical education focuses on at this stage of learning. This curriculum aims to teach students not only what they believe, but why they believe it and how to form an argument to prove it.
The Rhetoric Stage (Grades 9-12)
Once a student has grasped the art of reasoning, he is taught how to logically express his deductions. This is what the whole purpose of schooling was once aimed at. In fact, in order to graduate, a student (usually 16 years-old in those days) would have to present a well-formed thesis to his teachers in order to even graduate. Our seniors certainly don’t have to do that today! Our public school system fails our students on this account. A student does not learn rhetoric unless he goes on to college. And in college, he will find that there is a lot of catching up to do now that the public school system is so far behind the colleges. However, with a classical education behind him, a student will find himself at an advantage in college.
Why Classical Education is Important for Society
It is sad that our public education system is failing so miserably. Especially when this is the main tool used to educate those who vote and make decisions about our country’s future. This is why I am committed to classical Christian education for my son. I want him to be well-versed in the classics; after all, they are considered classics because they have been studied for ages and stood the test of time. I want him to know his Latin roots because I believe they are a necessary part of understanding not only the English vocabulary, but many of the world’s languages. I want him to know what he believes, why he believes it, and to be able to discuss it intelligently.
I believe that if he can do that, not only will he be able to contribute more to society, but that he won’t be swayed by every new idea that breezes by him. Instead, he will be able to discern which new idea warrants attention, and which will be a passing fad, here today and gone tomorrow. It seems that many in our society lack the discernment that classical education brings. In just fifty years, we have made a mess of our educational system by trying to find a better way to teach. It’s time to look backwards in time to when education resulted in some of the best thinkers in history of the world.