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Encyclopedia > Classical education

Classical education as understood and taught in the Middle Ages of Western culture is roughly based on the ancient Greek concept of Paideia. China had a completely different tradition of classical education, based in large part on Confucian and Taoist traditions. This article concerns the Western tradition. The Middle Ages formed the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three ages: the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times, beginning with the Renaissance. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Western World. ... Note: This article contains special characters. ... To the ancient Greeks, Paideia (παιδεία) was the process of educating man into his true form, the real and genuine human nature. ... Confucianism (儒家 Pinyin: rújiā The School of the Scholars), sometimes translated as the School of Literati, is an East Asian ethical, religious and philosophical system originally developed from the teachings of Confucius. ... For other uses of the words tao and dao, see Dao (disambiguation). ...


The overall organization

Classical education developed many of the terms now used to describe modern education. Western classical education has three phases, each with a different purpose. The phases are roughly coordinated with human development, and would ideally be exactly coordinated with each individual student's development.

"Primary education" teaches students how to learn.

"Secondary education" then teaches a conceptual framework that can hold all human knowledge (history), and then fills in basic facts and practices of the major fields of knowledge, and develops the skills (perhaps in a simplified form) of every major human activity.

"Tertiary education" then prepares a person to pursue an educated profession, such as law, theology, war, medicine or science.

Primary Education

Primary education was often called the trivium, which covered grammar, logic, and rhetoric. In medieval universities, the trivium comprised the three subjects taught first, grammar, logic, and rhetoric. ...

Logic and rhetoric was often taught in part by the Socratic method, in which the teacher raises questions and the class discusses them. By controlling the pace, the teacher can keep the class very lively, yet disciplined. Socratic Method (or method of elenchos or Socratic debate) is a dialectic method of inquiry, largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts and first described by Plato in the Socratic Dialogues. ...


Grammar consists of language skills such as reading and the mechanics of writing. An important goal of grammar is to acquire as many words and manage as many concepts as possible so as to be able to express and understand clearly concepts of varying degrees of complexity. Very young students can learn these by rote. Classical education traditionally included study of Latin and Greek, so that students could read the Classics of Western Civilization in the words of the authors. Latin is an ancient Indo-European language originally spoken in Latium, the region immediately surrounding Rome. ... Classics, particularly within the Western University tradition, when used as a singular noun, means the study of the language, literature, history, art, and other aspects of Greek and Roman culture during the time frame known as classical antiquity. ... For alternative meanings for The West in the United States, see the U.S. West and American West. ...


Logic (dialectic) is the art of correct reasoning. The traditional text for teaching logic was Aristotle's Logic. Logic, from Classical Greek λόγος logos (the word), is the study of the principles and criteria of valid inference and demonstration. ... In classical philosophy, dialectic (Greek: διαλεκτική) is an exchange of propositions (theses) and counter-propositions (antitheses) resulting in a synthesis of the opposing assertions, or at least a qualitative transformation in the direction of the dialogue. ... Reasoning is the act of using reason to derive a conclusion from certain premises. ... Aristotle (Greek: Aristotélēs) (384 BC – March 7, 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ... Aristotelian logic, also known as syllogistic logic, is the particular type of logic created by Aristotle, primarily in his works Prior Analytics and De Interpretatione. ...


Rhetoric debate and composition (which is the written form of rhetoric) are taught to somewhat older students, who by this point in their education have the concepts and logic to criticize their own work and persuade others. According to Aristotle "Rhetoric is the counterpart of dialectic." It is concerned with finding "all the available means of persuasion." The student has learned to reason correctly in the Logic stage so that they can now apply those skills to Rhetoric. Students would read and emulate classical poets such as Ovid and others in learning how to present their arguments well. Rhetoric (from Greek , rhêtôr, orator, teacher) is generally understood to be the art or technique of persuasion through the use of oral or written language; however, this definition of rhetoric has been contested since rhetoric emerged as a field of study in Universities. ... Aristotle (Greek: Aristotélēs) (384 BC – March 7, 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ... Engraved frontispiece of George Sandyss 1632 London edition of Publius Ovidius Naso (Sulmona, March 20, 43 BC – Tomis, now Constanţa AD 17), a Roman poet known to the English-speaking world as Ovid, wrote on topics of love, abandoned women and mythological transformations. ...

Secondary Education

Secondary education, classically the quadrivium or "four ways," classically taught astronomy, arithmetic, music and geometry, usually from Aristotle and Euclid. Sometimes architecture was taught, often from the works of Vitruvius. The quadrivium comprised the four subjects taught in medieval universities after the trivium. ... A giant Hubble mosaic of the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant Astronomy is the science of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earths atmosphere (such as auroras and cosmic background radiation). ... Arithmetic or arithmetics (from the Greek word αριθμός = number) is the oldest and most elementary branch of mathematics, used by almost everyone, for tasks ranging from simple daily counting to advanced science and business calculations. ... Allegory of Music on the Opéra Garnier Music is an art form that involves organized sounds and silence. ... Table of Geometry, from the 1728 Cyclopaedia. ... Euclid(Greek: ), also known as Euclid of Alexandria, was a Greek mathematician who flourished in Alexandria, Egypt, almost certainly during the reign of Ptolemy I (323–283 BC). ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (born ca. ...

History was always taught to provide a context, and show political and military development. The classic texts were from ancient authors such as Cicero and Tacitus. Cicero at about age 60, from an ancient marble bust Marcus Tullius Cicero (IPA: ; Latin pronunciation:  ; January 3, 106 BC – December 7, 43 BC) was an orator, statesman, political theorist, lawyer and philosopher of Ancient Rome. ... Gaius Cornelius Tacitus Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (c. ...

Biographies were often assigned as well; the classic example being Plutarch's "Lives." Biographies help show how persons behave in their context, and the wide ranges of professions and options that exist. As more modern texts became available, these were often added to the curriculum. Mestrius Plutarchus (Greek: Πλούταρχος; 46 - 127), better known in English as Plutarch, was an Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist. ...

In the Middle Ages, these were the best available texts. In modern terms, these fields might be called history, natural science, accounting and business, fine arts (at least two, one to amuse companions, and another to decorate one's domicile), military strategy and tactics, engineering, agronomy, and architecture. The Middle Ages formed the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three ages: the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times, beginning with the Renaissance. ... History studies the past in human terms. ... Part of a scientific laboratory at the University of Cologne. ... It has been suggested that Accounting scholarship be merged into this article or section. ... Wall Street, Manhattan is the location of the New York Stock Exchange and is often used as a symbol for the world of business. ... Fine art refers to arts that are concerned with beauty or which appealed to taste (SOED 1991). ... Military stratagem in the Battle of Waterloo. ... Military tactics (Greek: Taktikē, the art of organizing an army) are the collective name for methods for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. ... Engineering is the design, analysis, and/or construction of works for practical purposes. ... Agronomy is a branch of agricultural science that deals with the study of crops and the soils in which they grow. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...

These are taught in a matrix of history, reviewing the natural development of each field for each phase of the trivium. That is, in a perfect classical education, the historical study is reviewed three times: first to learn the grammar (the concepts, terms and skills in the order developed), next time the logic (how these elements could be assembled), and finally the rhetoric, how to produce good, humanly useful and beautiful objects that satisfy the grammar and logic of the field.

History is the unifying conceptual framework, because history is the study of everything that has occurred before the present. A skillful teacher also uses the historical context to show how each stage of development naturally poses questions and then how advances answer them, helping to understand human motives and activity in each field. The question-answer approach is called the "dialectic method," and permits history to be taught Socratically as well.

Classical educators consider the Socratic method to be the best technique for teaching critical thinking. In-class discussion and critiques are essential in order for students to recognize and internalize critical thinking techniques. This method is widely used to teach both philosophy and law. It is currently rare in other contexts. Basically, the teacher referees the students' discussions, asks leading questions, and may refer to facts, but never gives a conclusion until at least one student reaches that conclusion. The learning is most effective when the students compete strongly, even viciously in the argument, but always according to well-accepted rules of correct reasoning. That is, fallacies should not be allowed by the teacher. Socrates (Greek: , invariably anglicized as , Sǒcratēs; circa 470–399 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher who is widely credited for laying the foundation for Western philosophy. ... For other uses, see Philosophy (disambiguation). ... Lady Justice is a personification of the law. ... It has been suggested that Logical fallacy be merged into this article or section. ...

By completing a project in each major field of human effort, the student can develop a personal preference for further education and professional training.

Tertiary Education

Tertiary education was usually an apprenticeship to a person with the desired profession. Most often, the understudy was called a "secretary" and had the duty of carrying on all the normal business of the "master." Philosophy and Theology were both widely taught as tertiary subjects in Universities however. If youre looking for the TV show, see The Apprentice. ... For other uses, see Philosophy (disambiguation). ... Theology (Greek θεος, theos, God, + λογια, logia, words, sayings, or discourse) is reasoned discourse concerning religion, spirituality and God or the gods. ...

The early biographies of nobles show probably the ultimate form of classical education: A tutor. One early, much-emulated classic example was that Alexander the Great was tutored by Aristotle. Alexander the Great (Greek: ,[1] Megas Alexandros; July 356 BC–June 11, 323 BC), also known as Alexander III, king of Macedon (336–323 BC), was one of the most successful military commanders in history. ... Aristotle (Greek: Aristotélēs) (384 BC – March 7, 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ...

Modern Interpretations of Classical Education

"The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home," by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer (W.W. Norton, 1999), is a modern reference on classical education. It provides a history of classical education, an overview of the methodology and philosophy of classical education, and annotated lists of books, divided by grade and topic, that list the best books for classical education in each category.

"The Grammar of Our Civility: Classical Education in America," by Lee T. Pearcy (2005) provides a theoretical and historical account of classical education in the United States and suggests the need for a distinctly American approach to ancient Greece and Rome.

Marva Collins has successfully taught a rapid-fire classical education to inner-city deprived children, many of them labeled as "retarded." Marva N. Collins, b. ...

Also of note is "A New Trivium and Quadrivium," an article by Dr. George Bugliarello (Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, Vol. 23, No. 2, 106-113 (2003)). In it, he argues that the scope of the classical liberal education is inadequate for today's society, and that people should also be conversant with the basic facts of science and technology, since they now form a much more important part of our lives than did the tertiary studies of antiquity. He argues for a new synthesis of science, engineering, and the humanities in which there is a balance between what can be done and what ought to be done, between human desires and earthly consequences, and between our ever-increasing power to affect our surroundings and the ever-present danger of destroying the ecological and environmental systems which allow us to exist.

No discussion of classical education could be complete without mentioning Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins, both of the University of Chicago, who set forth in the 1930s to restore the "Great Books" of Western civilization to center stage in the curriculum. Although the standard classical works—such as the Harvard Classics—most widely available at the time, were decried by many as out of touch with modern times, Adler and Hutchins sought to expand on the standard "classics" by including more modern works, and by trying to tie them together in the context of what they described as the "Great Ideas," condensed into a "Syntopicon" index and bundled together with a new "five foot shelf" of books as "The Great Books of the Western World." They were wildly popular during the Fifties, and discussion groups of aficionados were found all over the USA, but their popularity waned during the Sixties and such groups are relatively hard to find today. Extensions to the original set are still being published, encompassing selections from both current and older works which extend the "great ideas" into the present age and other fields, including civil rights, the global environment, and discussions of multiculturalism and assimilation. Mortimer Adler around 1963 Mortimer Jerome Adler (December 28, 1902 – June 28, 2001) was an American aristotelian philosopher and author. ... Robert Hutchins around 1963 Robert Maynard Hutchins (January 17, 1899, Brooklyn, New York – May 17, 1977, Santa Barbara, California) was an educational philosopher, a president (1929-1945) of the University of Chicago and its chancellor (1945-1951). ... The University of Chicago is a private university located principally in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. ... The Harvard Classics, originally known as Dr. Eliots Five Foot Shelf, was a fifty-volume anthology of works selected by Charles W. Eliot. ... The Great Books Great Books of the Western World is a series of books originally published in the United States in 1952 by Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. ...

There still exist a number of informal groups and professional organizations which take the classical approach to education seriously, and who undertake it in earnest. Within the classical Christian education movement, David Hicks, author of Norms and Nobility, the Society for Classical Learning, the Association of Classical and Christian Schools, and the CiRCE Institute, founded by Andrew Kern, co-author with Gene Edward Veith of Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America, play a leading role.

In addition to many middle-schools and high schools across the country, there are at present several universities or colleges in the United States wherein such an Oxfordian classical education is taking place:

  1. St. John's College (two campuses, one in MD and one in NM);
  2. Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA;
  3. New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, ID; and,
  4. The Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, in La Mirada, CA.
  5. Gutenberg College in Eugene, OR

At each of these institutions some variation of the Canon of Western Great Books is used as the primary course material, and tutor-lead "Socratic discussions" are the primary vehicle for ingestion and digestion of the selected works. St. ... Financial Aid Available Location Santa Paula, California Schedule Must enroll in Fall President Thomas E. Dillon Address 10000 N. Ojai Road Santa Paula, CA 93060 Phone 1-800-634-9797 Website http://www. ... New Saint Andrews College is a classical Christian undergraduate college located in Moscow, Idaho. ... Biola University is a private Christian college, located in Southern California that is noted for its conservative evangelical theology. ... Gutenberg College in Eugene, Oregon, is a four-year college providing a broad-based liberal arts education in a Protestant Christian environment. ...

A more traditional, but less common view of classical education arises from the ideology of the Renaissance, advocating an education grounded in the languages and literatures of Greece and Roman. The demanding and lengthy training period required for learing to read Greek and Latin texts in their original form has been crowded out in most American schools in favor of contemporary subjects. Latin is taught at some schools, but Greek rarely.

External links

  • The Association of Classical and Christian Schools
  • A New Trivium and Quadrivium by Dr. George Bugliarello
  • The CiRCE Institute
  • St. John's College in Maryland (and New Mexico)
  • Classical Christian Middle/High School in San Diego
  • The Great Books Foundation
  • The Lost Tools of Learning, an essay by Dorothy Sayers
  • Highlands Latin School: Classical Christian School in KY
  • Crossville Christian, a classical Christian school in TN
  • The Clapham School: A Classical and Christian School based in Wheaton, IL
  • Association of Classical Christian Schools, based in Moscow, ID
  • Chrysoloras' Greek: The Pedagogy of Cultural Transformation
  • Greek,Too: The Recovery of Greek in American Schools
  • Holy Spirit Preparatory School

See also

  Results from FactBites:
Understanding Classical Education (3321 words)
The classical difference is clear when students are taken beyond conventionally taught subjects and asked to apply their knowledge through logic and clear expression.
The classical method is based on the philosophy that students should be encouraged to do what they naturally enjoy during particular phases of their life.
A fundamental belief of classical educators is that studying Western Civilization, with its triumphs and its failures, must be central to education.
One-Sixteenth: Classical Education (1174 words)
The second definition is much simpler: classical education is education that focuses on classical languages, literature, history and arts, and uses the educational subjects of the Trivium (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric) as its organizing principle.
When you hear that a school, or a homeschool, provides a classical education, they are most likely pursuing a rigorous education with the process of the Trivium as their organizing principle.
Classical education is the study of the classics: language, literature, arts, philosophy, aesthetics and history.
  More results at FactBites »



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