An Introduction To Classical Education: A Guide For Parents

Author Christopher Perrin
Published 2006
Pages 45
ISBN 9781600510205
Links Goodreads


July 21st, 2021–August 18th, 2021


Solid overview of Classical Christian education.

Classical education started in Greece and Rome, was adapted by Christians in the Middle Ages, continued in the America unchallenged until the mid-19th century, mostly faded in public schools, and is now resurging in some Christian schools and home schools.

It is subjects: trivium, quadrivium, theology, the Great Books, Latin.

It is methods: studying subjects chronologically and holistically, imitating the masters, and practicing frequently.

Most importantly it is a philosophy: that "all knowledge is in an ultimate sense knowledge of God himself" and therefore education is the highest of goals. That men and women have souls, and that those souls can be molded for virtue through exposure to goodness, truth, and beauty. That education is the responsibility of parents and should be tailored to each individual.

That philosophy effects the subjects and methods, testing, academic standards, and everything else.

This book represents a couple majority opinions to which I've recently seen push back: reasons for studying Latin and Sayers's "trivium" child development theory. See Jonathan Roberts's essay for a response to both.

3.5 stars


11 The trivium subjects of grammar, logic and rhetoric did persist through both the Greek and Roman periods, but in various sequences and patterns. These three subjects were very useful for increasing skill in the use of language, and so are often called verbal arts. With the advent of the Middle Ages, four quantitative arts were ratified and added to the curriculum: geometry, astronomy, music and arithmetic. Geometry includes some rudiments of geography, astronomy included some physics, grammar included literature, and rhetoric included history. These four quantitative arts were known as the quadrivium (the four ways), and the seven arts together became known as the artes liberales, or the seven liberal arts. A “liberal arts” college, one might think, would emphasize these seven subjects (don’t be so sure). These liberal arts were thought to be the arts (or skills) of the free man or the arts which would provide “freedom” to those who studied them. After the formalization of these seven liberal arts in the Middle Ages, a
new sequence (though with some variety!) of study evolved. The first three arts (the trivium) were studied first (though rhetoric was often studied later and long) and generally followed by the


Greek and Roman elements of education, therefore, were collected, categorized and formalized during the Middle Ages.

Almost universally, Christians adopted the classical model and invested it with theological assumptions and guidelines that were intended to serve the church. The study of theology was added to the seven liberal arts as the crowning discipline or “queen of the sciences.” Christians even continued to study the non-Christian classical authors of the past with reverence and respect even using authors like Aristotle to help create systems of Christian theology (e.g., Thomas Aquinas). It was also during the Middle Ages that a more straightforward and
discrete sequence of subjects evolved.

14 The reformers emphasized the importance of creating a literate, educated church which could read and study the Scriptures—in the original languages. As inheritors of the classical tradition of
education they took it for granted that students should study an ample amount of history and literature—even of the pagan variety.


G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World: "Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”

A few examples of the progressive approach should ring familiar: classical languages were dropped altogether and relegated to shrinking classics departments in colleges; basic instruction in phonics and decoding was replaced with a “whole language” approach of reading instruction; training in logic and dialectic was replaced with self-expression without fault-finding; writing instruction guided by imitating the masters and frequent practice was replaced with more individualistic, creative approaches and less practice; math instruction steeped in drill, practice and repetition was replaced with curricula containing less drill and practice and more activities and stories related to the subject; history instruction grounded in and celebrating the western tradition from which the U.S. emerged was gradually replaced with a multi-cultural approach that downplayed European and even American history and presented instead a smattering of world history (your old social studies
classes). Furthermore, progressive educators often looked back on the classical model as harsh, cold and unpleasant for students. As a result progressive educators strove to be entertaining and fun, and gradually began to expect less of students in terms of work and achievements. Standards of student behavior began to change too, and schools became more permissive and less willing to
discipline for misbehavior. Grading too, became more lenient in an effort to boost student self-esteem.

17 C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man objects that education can be neutral. "Progressive education" must be progressing towards something, ostensibly something the it's proponents find good.

18 T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding Movement V:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Reasons to learn Latin:
1. English vocab
2. English grammar
3. Sat scores
4. Learning romance languages
5. Learn Greek

Reasons to learn Greek:
1. English vocab
2. English grammar
3. Read New testament
4. Learn other languages faster

29 Dorothy Sayers called the trivium the tools of learning.

30 We can imagine such a student in college tackling a new subject. He has learned in the early “grammar” years to approach a subject by breaking it down to its fundamental parts and mastering them by memorizing them—using chants, songs and other mnemonic devices. He has learned during their “logic” years to study the ordered relationship among these parts, and to derive the principles that govern them. Finally, he has learned during his “rhetoric” years to discover how to take his acquired knowledge and communicate it effectively and creatively, applying it to new and varied situations and needs.

38 We can never teach a mind only, or a heart; we are always teaching a person with both.

39 Christians should see that all knowledge is in an ultimate sense knowledge of God himself and an attempt to reverse the curse and head back to Eden where we can be closer to God and become more like him. That is, Christians face frankly the reality of sin in education and see all knowledge as a means of knowing God and in so doing attaining “true virtue.”