Classical Education

Classical education differs from modern education in several ways:

1. Classical education seeks to instill in its students a love (philia) of wisdom (sophia) for the sake of becoming a better human being

Modern education focuses on knowing facts and acquiring skills with the explicit practical purposes of getting into a good college or having a good career. While these are not bad goals, and may often be the result of a good classical education, the goal of classical education is to lead students toward wisdom and virtue by deliberating on the purpose of being a good human.

2. Classical education teaches that there are truths that do not waver with politics or current events.

Classical teachers and curricula show students how to discern and understand timeless truths as opposed to what is bound by time and culture.When students study connections among classical literature, history, science, philosophy, logic, and theology, they recognize the themes, struggles, and virtues that transcend time. Modern curricula react to the current social political climate and teach students that truth varies with individual perspectives. The result is a heightened and false belief that truth is bound to historical and cultural situations. At Telos Classical Academy, we teach that there are truths and virtues which do not bend and sway with the passing of time.

3. Classical education emphasizes learning how to learn through mastery of the verbal arts of the trivium.

Trivium is a Latin term meaning three roads (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and it is the primary method of learning any new subject matter. When you master the trivium, you are ready to take on higher learning because you have learned how to learn. Modern education often asks students to compose and create (in art, writing, etc) before they have learned the fundamental rules or have copied the masters enough to know how to create something new. Most modern curricula focus on teaching content but lack tools that teach students how to learn something new on their own.

While a student can progress through each stage when learning something new within a single grade level, these stages can loosely be applied to a child’s overarching development as they move from 1st grade to 12th grade.

Grammar Stage - The fundamental rules of each subject

Students learn the (words and terms) associated with a new topic

Students in grades 1-5 focus on learning how to read well, to spell properly, and to write grammatically correct sentences. This lays the groundwork for knowing how to string sentences together to make a well-written, logical argument.

Factual information is gained mostly through memorizing, singing, and chanting. This is the prime age for memorizing information and facts that children learn at this age are often recalled for a lifetime.

Logic Stage - The ordered relationship of particulars in each subject.

Students ask questions, compare, revisit, and sort the information

Students in grades 6-8 learn how to use their knowledge of sentences and paragraphs to structure logical and sound arguments. They know how to read difficult texts and have been provided multiple examples of great writing in the grammar phase and can now use these skills to focus on articulating arguments and new ideas. This lays the foundation for the art of persuasion.

Students revisit the facts they memorized in the Grammar stage to gain deeper knowledge and understanding about the information.

Rhetoric Stage - How the grammar and logic of each subject may be clearly expressed.

Students are fully conversant with the information and can argue its truth (or lack thereof) through discourse and writing

Students in grades 9-12 use their knowledge of logic and arguments to persuade others through their writing and speech. They have mastered how to write grammatically correct sentences to form paragraphs that use logic to make concise arguments.

Students now learn how to use these arguments for the act of writing and speaking persuasively.

“Is it not the great defect of our education today that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils ‘subjects’, we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think? They learn everything except the art of learning… In certain of the arts and crafts we sometimes do precisely this - requiring a child to ‘express himself’ in paint before teach him how to handle the colours and the brush.”
– Dorothy Sayers

4. Classical education stresses the integration of knowledge across subjects.

Even if scheduling logistics requires subjects to be separated, classical education emphasizes the continuity and interrelated nature of all knowledge. Writing, reading comprehension, and art are important while observing and documenting similarities and differences around us. Arithmetic and numbers are used when telling time, buying and selling things, and computing similarities and differences. Modern education treats subject matter as distinct topics and does a poor job of integrating and making connections between them. Classical education by definition and necessity is interdisciplinary.

5. Classical education stresses mastery of a topic.

Students must demonstrate mastery in a topic before progressing to the next level in difficulty. They must also do their best work for the work to be complete. If student work is sloppy, shows inaccuracies or is incomplete, it must be redone. If a student has shown insufficient mastery of 4th grade, they cannot move on to 5th grade. Modern education prioritizes a student’s emotional feelings when allowing him/her to progress to the next grade level despite an understanding of the work and intellectual readiness to move on. While a student’s emotional readiness is a factor we consider when determining a student’s grade placement, their intellectual ability and readiness comes first.

Learn more about classical education and its importance.