In her now famous 1947 essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” British author Dorothy Sayers reintroduced the world to the centuries-old model of education composed of the Trivium and the Quadrivium. In arguing for a return to this method, she stated:
“Is it 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.”
New Covenant Christian School joins a growing number of classical Christian schools that have chosen to teach students according to the Trivium model. The goal of this method is that students will learn not just subjects but master the “tools of learning” to enable them to become independent learners and thinkers infused with a love of learning and a love for God and all the order and beauty of His creation.
The three stages of the Trivium (Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric) applied in grades K-12 give students the basic tools of learning to enable them to undertake the more specialized study of subjects in the Quadrivium (the approximate equivalent of college and University-level studies). These stages roughly parallel the three main stages of childhood development.
In the Grammar stage (ages 5-11), there is the study of fundamentals of various disciplines in order to build a body of core knowledge, which, subsequently can be ordered and arranged in the development of the student’s reasoning and expression capabilities in the context of a Christian worldview. Latin, the paradigm discipline of the Grammar stage begins in fourth grade. Questions of who, what, when, and where are the focus.
In the Logic (dialectic) stage (ages 12-14), the data of the Grammar stage is put into ordered relationships. Formal and informal logic are taught during this phase and the student learns how to analyze data and arguments, distinguish fact from fallacy and, generally, to think according to sound rules of logic. The goal is to equip students with thinking skills or understanding, making them capable of detecting sound and fallacious arguments. In this stage, questions of how and why are thoroughly addressed and the child’s greater reasoning abilities lead him or her to make more sophisticated logical connections among facts.
In the Rhetoric stage (ages 15-18), when students are naturally inclined toward independent thinking, students learn to express their knowledge by learning how to prepare articulate, persuasive, and cogent oral and written presentations. The Rhetoric stage makes use of the data of the Grammar stage and the reasoning skills acquired in the Logic stage in order to teach students how to express or apply what they think eloquently and persuasively to attain wisdom.
With the completion of the Trivium, students will have mastered the real tools of learning – fundamental building blocks, analytical skills, mental discipline, oral presentation and writing skills, and a Biblical framework. They should be enthusiastic independent learners, able to tackle virtually any new area of study competently and from a distinctly Biblical and Christian worldview. At New Covenant Christian School, we seek to restore and employ this time-proven method in the education of the student.