Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (13)


Dorothy Sayers (cont'd)

Miss Sayers continues:
Do you ever find that young people, when they have left school, not only forget most of what they have learnt (that is only to be expected), but forget also, or betray that they have never really known, how to tackle a new subject for themselves? Are you often bothered by coming across grown-up men and women who seem unable to distinguish between a book that is sound, scholarly, and properly documented, and one that is, to any trained eye, very conspicuously none of these things? Or who cannot handle a library catalogue? Or who, when faced with a book of reference, betray a curious inability to extract from it the passages relevant to the particular question which interests them?(1)
Are they taught how to take their study habits in one field and apply them to another or must they be shown repeatedly as adults how to learn anything new?

Dorothy Sayers answers her own questions with a practical solution – return to the classical model of education that was maintained for almost two thousand years by the church. Teach just three skills: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. For content, use the best of literature and science and math resources guided by a Christian who loves teaching students to learn anything.

Modern Classical Leaders

Doug Wilson, prolific author, popular speaker and founder of The Association of Christian, Classical Schools, launched the growth of the modern Christian, classical school movement after expanding Dorothy Sayers’ seminal essay in Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning in 1991. He followed this book up in 2002 with The Case for Classical, Christian Education. Following are some of his key ideas about a classical education:
  1. Terms always need to be defined. The master should define terms for the student and Christians for the culture, not the other way around. Grammar, the science of vocabulary, should begin the study of any topic.
  2. Logic, or the reconciliation of ideas, should be taught next. This is often called the dialectic stage. The biblical view of truth is in opposition with the world’s view of truth. Just as in a hand clap, when a biblical idea meets a secular idea, there should be a sting and some noise. This should inform our educational choices, teachers, and methodology.
  3. True knowledge and understanding should lead to wisdom. Rhetoric, the consequence of ideas, reveals a man’s heart.(2)
Long time home school leaders Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn have a very practical book called Teaching the Trivium. Trivium is Latin for ‘three roads,’ defined as grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric.

As a professor of literature at the College of William and Mary, Susan Wise Bauer and her mother, Jessie, have written large volumes, including The Well-Trained Mind and The Well-Educated Mind, that promote and serve as encyclopedias for reference on the classical model.(3)

There is a large body of work referenced in this thesis bibliography developed specifically for classical home-centered educators.

(1) Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning.”
(2) Douglas Wilson, The Case for Classical Christian Education (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003).
(3) Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999); and Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003).

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

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