A Classical Education

Why Classical Education?

Dorothy Sayers, in her famous essay The Lost Tools of Learning writes:

Is not the great defect of our education today…that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils “subjects,” we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning.

In our modern age, more than ever before in history, there is an unceasing bombardment of propaganda and advertisements via TV, movies, Facebook, Twitter, magazines, video games, etc… Children today are being raised in a culture where literacy is decreasing and information is increasing (along with immediate and constant access to it). Unfortunately, modern educational methods encourage children at a young age to learn primarily through self-expression and experimentation.

This is a problem for multiple reasons:

  • As Sayers continues in her essay: “It is as though we had taught a child, mechanically and by rule of thumb, to play ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’ upon the piano, but had never taught him the scale or how to read music; so that, having memorized ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith,’ he still had not the faintest notion how to proceed from that to tackle ‘The Last Rose of Summer.'”
  • To say it another way, modern educational approaches fail to adequately take advantage of the fact that younger children easily memorize anything and everything. Their brains are wired in such a way to absorb information quickly, repeat it often, and remember it permanently. If the fundamental “grammar” of subjects (language, math, history, theology, etc.) are not memorized in their early years, children are hindered from growing in their understanding and expression of the subjects (and the assimilation of new knowledge into them) as they grow older.
  • Furthermore, when children reach the age where they naturally start making arguments, modern methods fail to teach them proper logic. Thus, having gone through the early years indulging in self-expression (at the expense of learning the fundamentals), children lack the building blocks to construct a sound argument.
  • Finally, upon reaching the high school years, passionate self-expression happens whether parents like it or not. Modern methods leave students ill-equipped to speak, write, and argue persuasively on any topic. Without having learned the earlier “tools” of learning (i.e. grammar and logic) the student is hindered from both processing new arguments (from movies, media, ads, etc.) and adequately expressing whether they should be accepted or refuted.

The classical approach, therefore, teaches students the “tools” of learning (grammar, logic, rhetoric) during the life stages when they are naturally prone to apply them.