by Douglas Wilson
I was very grateful for how the Lord used my first book on education—Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning. At the same time, it could be argued that the title of the book was not given in great wisdom. That word recovering suggests a lot of alternatives, and it turns out that people use them. Restoring the Lost Tools of Learning, Repairing the Lost Tools of Learning, Reupholstering the Lost Tools of Learning, and then there was the time we even got it wrong on the back of another book on education, The Case for Classical Christian Education, where we called it Rediscovering the Lost Tools of Learning. Or something.
So perhaps you will pardon me if on this occasion, we focus on the word tools. The use of that word of course comes from Dorothy Sayers’ seminal essay “The Lost Tools of Learning”, where she laments the tendency of modern education to teach the students what to think, instead of teaching them how to think. This failure is a manifest and obvious one, and cannot be covered over with phrases like “critical thinking skills.” Nobody is doing any critical thinking when one bit of propaganda displaces an older bit of propaganda.
What Sayers suggested, and what Logos School has been seeking to do from the beginning, is to provide the students with the grist for thought (facts), the laws and methods of thought (reason), and the loveliness of thought (rhetoric). This comes through successive application, using the Sayers’ Insight, as the students grow through the grammar stage, the dialectic stage, and the rhetoric stage—the three components of the medieval Trivium.
And this is why it is not arrogance to urge your graduates to “do anything.” They know, for they have been taught, that the anything does not include the flying of pink unicorns around your own private moon base. It refers to anything within our implied realm of discourse. It means that a genuine liberal arts education is an education for life and living, and is not to be treated as vocational training for future English teachers. It means that classical education is not vo-tech education for Latin geeks.
So when Logos Press uses the tag line “Train Classically. Do Anything.” this is what they are talking about. The classical methodology, which Logos recovered (or reupholstered, whatever), and which Logos Press is actively engaged in getting into resources that you can use, is a process of educating and training which will provide your student with many more options that he otherwise would have had. And that is a good thing.