Why I Support the Classical Education Movement
While I’m no expert in the field of education, I do have a bachelor’s degree in it, I’m passionate about it, and I’m trying to learn all I can about it. As I learn, one movement within the field of education has strongly caught my interest: classical education. I hope the future allows me to do more in support of this movement.
What Classical Education Is
It’s an education model that draws on the framework used during the Renaissance and later centuries. Here are some of its cornerstones:
- It uses a systematic type of curriculum for elementary to high school students that correlates with children’s developmental stages. (More on this below)
- It is language-based. It emphasizes reading and writing, rather than, say, drawing or watching videos, because of the notion that reading and writing force the brain to work harder and build better thinking skills.
- It views knowledge as interrelated, rather than a set of disconnected subjects such as history, math, science, and so on. It views all the subjects as connected parts of the story of our world in the past and today.
- It emphasizes the major books and topics of study that have shaped Western civilization.
The Classical Education Curriculum
Classical education adopts terms that were used during the Renaissance to label the systematic stages of classical education. Some of these terms are words we use today but with different meanings.
The three main stages of classical education—together, called the trivium—are grammar, logic, and rhetoric.
- The first stage is grammar. This stage is about learning facts and building blocks for later education. The term is not limited to English language grammar, like we use the word today, but it applies to all subjects; it’s about the way in which they are studied—a focus on mastering key facts. This stage generally aligns with elementary school–aged children, who are like sponges in absorbing information about their world and are curious to learn facts about it. So the goal during this stage is not about self-expression or critical analysis but about thoroughly learning the central facts of history, science, math, literature, languages, and so on.
- The next stage is called logic. This stage usually aligns with junior high-aged students, who are not as interested in learning facts as in asking why things are the way they are. They want to understand reasons and relationships between things. So in this stage the emphasis is on learning the “logic” or rules that apply to each subject, for example, algebra in math, a thesis in writing a paper, cause and effects of events in history, and so on.
- The final stage is called rhetoric. This stage most naturally applies to high school students, who are now most interested in expressing their own ideas and pursuing individual interests. During this stage the emphasis is on learning to write and speak with clarity, forcefulness, and originality about various subjects, as well as on beginning to specialize in their unique interests.
Who Is Promoting Classical Education
There are various kinds of groups and schools around the country who are promoting classical education.
Why I Think Classical Education Is A Good Idea
There are many things to be said in favor of classical education, although there are certainly concerns and counter-points to be considered. The most important advantages of classical education are the skills it develops in children:
- Deftness of handling language through reading, writing, and speaking
- Solid grasp of core knowledge (math, science, history, language, literature, etc.)
- Ability to think critically and logically about that knowledge
- Ability to express thoughts effectively and independently
- The understanding that knowledge of the past enlightens our present and future
- The thinking habit of looking for connections, following patterns, and carefully developing conclusions that are informed, logical, and relevant
Many of these skills are what we see lacking so often in students of U.S. public schools today. And while plenty of people dismiss the humanities and liberal arts as irrelevant for careers, plenty of other people understand that these kinds of skills are essential for better careers and better lives overall.
This is merely a brief overview, but I hope it might add a pebble that helps pave the way for further gains in the classical education movement.