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What is Classical Education?

What is Classical Education? 

At its core, classical education, according to the Circe Institute (www.circeinstitute.org), is “the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty by means of the seven liberal arts and the four sciences.” Simply speaking, it is an intellectual framework that provides an order of learning (the sequence, the tools, and the content) and a purpose of learning (the cultivation of wisdom and virtue). In other words, its goal is to develop wisdom (what we know, how we think) and virtue (what we do, how we live), and the method is through the use of a specific model of teaching and learning.

This model typically revolves around what is known as the trivium and the quadrivium (called the seven liberal arts), the sciences, and the humanities. The trivium (from the Latin meaning “three paths”) emphasizes linguistic development through the three arts of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Grammar teaches language skills, logic teaches reasoning, and rhetoric teaches expression. We also use these three arts as a metaphor for our three stages of child development. The grammar stage focuses on acquiring basic knowledge, often through recitation, repetition, memorization, lecture, and/or drill; the logic stage focuses on understanding and reasoning with that information, often through questioning, probing, argument, and dialogue; the rhetoric stage focuses on the application of knowledge, through debate, self-expression, oral communication, writing, and independent thought. The quadrivium (from the Latin for “four paths”) emphasizes the development of logic, numerical reasoning, and an understanding of the created order, and therefore includes mathematics, spacial relations (geometry), music, and astronomy (physics, and the created order). The sciences refers to the natural sciences (what we would traditionally categorize as our science classes), moral sciences (related to the study of human behavior), philosophical sciences (ethics, causes, and the study of knowledge), and theological sciences (the study of God and the application of His truth). And finally, the humanities involves the study of history, philosophy, and religion, learning to understand how virtue has been applied throughout history, and takes place primarily through the study of the great books, the important works of literature and writings in the timeline of humanity (it could be said that the liberal arts forms the mind, and the humanities fills it).