Monday, June 24, 2013

"If it's not in your brain in the first place"

The CNN site provides an interesting article about the growth of the "classical school" movement, influenced by an essay written years ago by Dorothy L. Sayers:
.... The schools don’t just add a few Latin or Greek classes to a modern curriculum. Classical education methods are a revamp of what it means to be educated. Many modern classical schools divide learning into the trivium of medieval institutions: Grammar, logic and rhetoric.

During the “grammar” years of kindergarten through fourth grade, children memorize facts and poetry, learn the rules of phonics and spelling, explore animal and plant kingdoms, music, basic math and the history of civilization beginning with ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

In the “logic” stage—grades five through eight—children evaluate, analyze, discern and question. They study algebra and how to propose and defend a thesis. They engage in focused discussion, begin to think through arguments and understand cause and effect. ....

The “rhetoric” stage—grades nine through 12—concentrates on applying knowledge and expressing ideas through writing and speaking.

It's different than the typical school, but far from new. The concept of fusing the stages into modern education was popularized by a 1947 essay by British author Dorothy Sayers called “The Lost Tools of Learning.” ....

.... Although the majority of classical schools are Christian and conservative, the ideas transfer to schools of all political leanings, said Jonathan Beeson, a Yale Divinity School graduate and former Protestant minister who converted to Catholicism and became the principal of St. Theresa Catholic School in Sugar Land, Texas.

“There’s nothing in classical education inherently conservative or liberal,” he said. “And we’re not scared of memorization. Kids need content in their brains and they’re wired to absorb it. You can’t reflect on something if it’s not in your brain in the first place.” .... [more]
The essay by Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Lost Tools of Learning," is available online here and from Amazon in a very inexpensive Kindle version.