Tag Archives: Douglas Wilson

Train Classically. Do Anything.

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.

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Classical Christian Education: The Elevator Pitch

by Douglas Wilson

Thanks for asking. We are heavily involved in classical Christian education, but what do we mean by it?

logicBy classical we are referring to two things. First, our schools are built around a pedagogical method inspired by the medieval Trivium. The elements of that Trivium are grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. As Dorothy Sayers once pointed out, these three categories correspond very nicely to certain stages of child development. The elementary years line up with grammar, which we take as the constituent parts of every subject. Dialectic, or logic, has to do with the relationships of the parts, and students are naturally good at this in the junior high years. Rhetoric has to do with the presentation of this knowledge, once it is gathered and sorted out, and this corresponds to the high school years. So we begin with rote memorization, move on to categorization, and conclude with presentation. If we were to use biblical terminology, we could call them knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

The second meaning of classical has to do with our understanding of history. The kingdom of God must not be confounded with western civilization, but their stories are so intertwined that it is not possible to understand one without the other. When it comes to history, we do not want our students to be provincial, stuck in modernity. If all human history were a map, we want to teach them how to find the x that says “you are here.” This necessity affects the content of our curriculum.

rhetoricBy Christian we mean that we want all subjects to be taught as parts of an integrated whole, with the Scriptures at the center. We are confessing, orthodox Christians in the historic Protestant tradition. Because Scripture is central to us, this means that Jesus is Lord of Heaven and earth, and therefore Lord over the whole educational process. This of course means academic rigor, high standards, good moral discipline, and freedom from the arbitrary and inconsistent dogmas that are currently dragging down the government schools. But fundamentally, we would want to point to the fact that it means our schools can be places of forgiveness and joy—the only way anyone can come to understand the world.

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What is Classical Education?

In the 1940’s the British author, Dorothy Sayers, wrote an essay titled The Lost Tools of Learning. In it she not only calls for a return to the application of the seven liberal arts of ancient education, the first three being the “Trivium” – grammar, logic, rhetoric, she also combines three stages of children’s development to the Trivium. Specifically, she matches what she calls the “Poll-parrot” stage with grammar, “Pert” with logic, and “Poetic” with rhetoric (see The Lost Tools Chart). At Logos, the founding board members were intrigued with this idea of applying a classical education in a Christian context. Doug Wilson, a founding board member explained the classical method further in his book, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning. Logos School has been committed to implementing this form of education since the school’s inception. An excerpt from Doug Wilson’s book, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: Continue reading

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