The Lost Tools of Learning

Response to The Lost Tools of Learning Sayers believed the main problem with modern education is that children aren’t being taught to think. She believed that public education does not teach students how to understand relationships between subjects, nor does the public system teach students how to make sense of the information they learned. She was frustrated that adults cannot properly debate a question, write a lucid article in the newspaper or think for themselves when it comes to evaluating propaganda or advertising. Sayers was disheartened that students are learning everything except the art of learning itself.

Her argument against our current education system reminds me of the saying, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for life. ” Instead of just teaching subjects we should be teaching thinking, arguing and how to express conclusions. If we teach students with a different approach which focuses on the art of how to learn something new and how to make connections among the subjects we learn, then we will be educated on a deeper level – not just having knowledge, but understanding and wisdom as well.

The Trivium is Sayers answer to our problems with the current education system. The Trivium consist of three parts: Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric. These are not subjects studied individually, but methods of studying subjects. Grammar is the first part which involves learning the language and structure of a subject. Specifically, Sayers believed the Grammar stage should include observation and memorization of key concepts in Latin, Literature, History, Geography, Science and Math.

For example, the grammar of History should include dates, events, anecdotes and personalities. Dialectic, or Logic is the next stage where a student learns how to use this language through analysis of the subjects. In this stage a student takes the knowledge from the grammar stage and begins to build a deeper understanding by reasoning and analyzing what he’s learned. Rhetoric is the third stage which involves being able to critique the subject – to speak and write intelligently and defend opinions and ideas about a certain topic or subject.

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In this stage students will put the things memorized from the Grammar stage into new context and the concepts they analyzed in the Dialectic stage will be synthesized with new insight and perspective. A student in the Rhetoric stage will be able to articulate his thoughts and opinions of a concept. Through the Trivium students are able to learn independently, analyze logically, think critically and communicate clearly. Each stage is a building block towards a deeper level of understanding. Integration of subjects is a key difference between classical education and instruction from the public education system.

In the public education system, students are taught subjects in isolation. As they get older they are encouraged to specialize in one subject. By learning through the stages of the Trivium, students are able to understand that subjects aren’t isolated, but that everything is interrelated. As they progress through the stages of the Trivium, they learn how to make connections among subjects and put things they have learned into context together. Integration of subjects also makes new learning easier. Students who have learned how to learn can easily master a new subject.

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