School of Bunesti

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Trivium and Quadrivium

A Return of the Seven Liberal Arts of Classical Education

The Trivium includes subjects organized into stages of cognitive development: grammar, logic and rhetoric. These are the tools to enable the analysis and mastery of every other subject. The Trivium is not a modern approach to education, it was developed in the Middle Ages, but based on ancient Greek and Roman education.

The Seven Liberal Arts

In the medieval universities, the seven liberal arts were:

The Trivium: Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic The Quadrivium: Geometry, Arithmetic, Music, Astronomy

The quadrivium was necessary for the study of Philosophy and Theology which took place after completing the Quadrivium. For centuries, the mastery of these Seven Liberal Arts was the only education curriculum. As was prevalent in religion of the time of the Middle Ages, no questions as to the authority or completeness of this educational method were asked.

These seven liberal arts are explained in the old couplet quoted by C. S. Lewis in "The Discarded Image":

Gram loquitur, Dia verba docet, Rhet verba colorat,

Mus canit, Ar numerat, Geo ponderat, Ast colit astra.

This means:

Grammar talks, Dialectic teaches words, Rhetoric colors words,

Music sings, Arithmetic numbers, Geometry weighs, Astronomy tends the stars.

The Lost Tools: The Trivium Explained

The trivium is most easily understood by realizing that it is a time-tested method and philosophy of teaching producing some of the greatest figures of history. It can be considered a method of teaching relating to the natural development of the human mind.

As a methodology, the trivium follows a specific progression: the grammar stage, which focuses on learning facts and rules in the elementary subject levels; the dialectic stage, focusing on logi and how to think (just when 7th graders begin asking, "why?" driving parents and teachers nuts!); and the rhetoric stage, which focuses on how to make an effective oral delivery, including increasing abstract thinking. It should be noted that the three parts of the Trivium are stages, or methods of teaching, and are not the same as studying the subject of "grammar" "logic" and "rhetoric."

So the "lost tools" that Miss Sayers spoke of in her speech were the tools of a classical education. A classical education is based on the Trivium, which is made up of three stages of Grammar, Dialectic,and Rhetoric.

The fact that "The Lost Tools of Learning" is frequently referred to by educators today, more than half a century after it was written, indicates its impact. Sayer's article has encouraged many into finding out more about classical education and its methods. Students are responding with great excitement to the true challenge this approach demands of love the results of their hard work – a thinking, knowledgeable, confident student.

Read more at Suite101: Dorothy Sayer's The Lost Tools of Learning: A Return of the Seven Liberal Arts of Classical Education