Monday, March 14, 2016

Contemplating Classical Education: Recovering The Lost Tools of Learning...

As part of my classical education study, I've been reading Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson.  You may remember from a former post, Wilson piloted Logos School in response to Dorothy Sayers' essay, The Lost Tools of Learning.  At the time of penning his book, Wilson had ten years of experience with Logos School.  He advocates for Christ Centered and Classical education.

Over the weekend, I also listened to a free MP3 podcast Defending Sayers' Insight, in which Wilson defends, or maybe clarifies is a better word, Sayers' essay.  Wilson states the heart of Sayers' essay is taking the Trivium and dividing it up into the stages of learning.  He says, "Her argument is that the Trivium should be applied in a foundational way, giving the kids the tools of learning.  After which point, they can go on to complete the seven liberal arts in their study of the Quadrivium.  So the Trivium comes first.  Grammar first, then dialectic, then rhetoric, and then you can go on to study the Quadrivium."

Wilson goes on to admit, in the beginning, not knowing anything about the Trivium except from what Sayers' wrote, of which is the method he applied at the start of Logos School.  He states, "We began from a position of ignorance...We were just taking what we could from Sayers and putting it into practice....and the practical results from this were just astonishing."  As time went on and they put this method into practice, Wilson states they also furthered their study of classical education.  He is quick to add that Sayers stated in her essay she is confident that no one would ever attempt what she was writing about.  I believe she had no idea how much lower public education would fall and how desperate we would become....ahem!  

Wilson goes on to speculate about Sayers' intentions in writing The Lost Tools of Writing,...
A lot rides on whether we describe what Sayers was advocating as her historical explication of the medieval practice, or instead of this, describing it as the Sayers' insight.  Is this Sayers recounting and interpretation of what the Medieval's did, or is this Sayers saying look what the Medieval's did and I'm suggesting that we apply it in a new and unique way?  So is this Sayers' explication or is this Sayers' insight?  
Wilson proceeds to reference and quote from the book, Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning by Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans, "The historic application of the Trivium was not done on the Sayers' model."  I will leave you to decipher the rest of the podcast and will suffice to say, it was excellent and cleared up some misconceptions I personally had about Sayers' essay. I was very intrigued by her confidence that no one would take it all that serious.  By the way, the essay was originally presented as a speech at Oxford in 1947.

In regard to Wilson's book, he advocates for educational reforms from phonics instruction to requiring proficiency in certain basic subjects.  At the beginning of Chapter Seven, he writes,
In modern America, the fast-food mentality has penetrated the realm of the mind.  The modern student has a mind full of McThoughts.  Information comes to him processed and prepackaged, and he does his duty as a consumer.  This does not mean that intellectual activity has disappeared, but having your mind full of mental "stuff" is not the same thing as thinking.  
Wilson goes on to explain how the Trivium is applied at Logos School.  However, the book was written in 1991 and the MP3 speech referenced above was given in 2008.  I have a few pages left in Wilson's book, but it does appear that some of his philosophy has changed slightly since he wrote it.  I suspect this is due to aforementioned further study of classical education.

I personally respect and appreciate Wilson's thoughts on Classical education, but find myself filtering it through a Charlotte Mason lens.

In poking around on the AO Forum, I came across a couple relevant posts by Brandy Vencel:

Classical Education: Is Dorothy Sayers the Only Way?

Is Charlotte Mason Classical? {A Follow-Up} 

I would highly encourage you to read the comments after reading each of these posts.  There's excellent food for thought there!  

No comments:

Post a Comment