Acton Institute Powerblog

Finding ‘the lost tools of learning’

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“If you were to read Dorothy Sayers’ The Lost Tools of Learning and thereafter read the curriculum of Veritas Classical Academy,” says Elizabeth Yeh in this week’s Acton Commentary, “you would find that the “lost tools” have been found in the small town of Marietta, Ohio.”

The curriculum at Veritas is based on the Trivium. In her book, novelist and essayist Sayers explains that the genius of the Trivium is that it coincides with the natural stages of a child’s development.

First is the grammar of learning, taking place at what Sayers names the “Poll-parrot stage” of youth, when students willingly memorize fundamentals that will be foundational for subsequent thought. Next is the dialectic, which corresponds to the “Pert Age,” when students undoubtedly love to argue, but necessarily need to be taught how to make logically sound arguments. Finally, rhetoric is taught in high school during the restless “Poetic Age” of life, in which the creative and increasingly philosophical mind of youth is trained in its expression, i.e. speaking and writing. The schooling culminates in an individually chosen senior thesis, which taps into both the skills and moral development of the earlier stages and is orally delivered to an audience.

These are the timeless tools of learning.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton Commentary and other publications here.

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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