In 1947, Dorothy Sayers wrote an essay entitled The Lost Tools of Learning, in which she advocated a return to a method of education used in the Middle Ages known as the Trivium. This classical method of instruction had been successfully used for centuries and produced some of the greatest leaders in history. However, in the early twentieth century, the Trivium was discarded and replaced by the progressive method of education promoted by John Dewey and others. In the 1980′s, Douglas Wilson, inspired by Ms. Sayers’ powerful essay, was involved in the founding of Logos School, a Christian and classical school in Moscow, Idaho, whose curriculum and teaching method is based on the Trivium. Mr. Wilson’s subsequent books, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning and Repairing the Ruins, sparked a renewed interest in classical education that has grown into the current classical Christian school movement.
The Trivium is a three-stage model of learning based on the natural phases of development that children experience as they grow and mature. The three stages of the Trivium are Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric.
The first stage of the Trivium, the Grammar stage, is characterized by a child’s ability to memorize facts. In the classical model, we take advantage of this natural inclination and teach young students the grammar, or facts, of each subject. Because children in the early elementary grades naturally love to chant and sing, we use rhymes and songs as the mode to teach the facts of many subjects. Whether memorizing parts of speech, the continents, or Latin grammar, elementary students enjoy learning by this method. This stage is also characterized by the awakening of a love for learning that is nurtured by the teachers.
Students at BCS begin formal recitations in first grade and begin their study of Latin in third grade.
The Logic stage of the Trivium is characterized by the students’ desire to assert themselves. Students in this stage of development begin to think independently and have a growing desire to argue. In this stage of classical education, the goal is to help students learn to argue well and reason accurately. To develop this skill, students at BCS study formal logic and learn to identify both good arguments and bad arguments. This skill is applied in other subjects as well. The focus in science at this stage is on the scientific method as a means of learning how to reason clearly and consistently. In geometry, there is an emphasis on logic and the writing of proofs to further help the students understand sound reasoning.
During the logic stage, students also analyze the ordered relationship between the grammar or particulars of each subject. In order to do this, students focus on classification. In science, they classify animals, planets and rocks; in grammar, they classify parts of speech.
Finally, the students in this stage of the Trivium are taught to see each subject in the context of history. The goal is not to learn a subject in isolation, but to see its relationship to all other areas of knowledge.
Rhetoric is the art of communicating effectively and clearly. This final stage of the Trivium is creative and expressive and incorporates the other two stages of learning. Once students have learned the grammar or vocabulary of each subject and have developed the reasoning skills necessary to organize those particulars into a logical order, they are ready for the Rhetoric stage. It is at this stage that students learn to express the knowledge they have acquired clearly and winsomely.
At BCS Rhetoric-stage students write research papers and participate in Speech Meet, Science Fair, and Mock Trial. Additionally, seniors are required to write and defend a senior thesis, making use of all of the skills they have been taught during their years at BCS.