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In 1947, Dorothy Sayers first delivered this speech at Oxford University. It has since been republished countless times due to its sheer eloquence and unanswered articulation of the 3 "lost tools" in classical education: grammar, logic and rhetoric. In 1947, Dorothy Sayers first delivered this speech at Oxford University. It has since been republished countless times due to its sheer eloquence and unanswered articulation of the 3 "lost tools" in classical education: grammar, logic and rhetoric.


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In 1947, Dorothy Sayers first delivered this speech at Oxford University. It has since been republished countless times due to its sheer eloquence and unanswered articulation of the 3 "lost tools" in classical education: grammar, logic and rhetoric. In 1947, Dorothy Sayers first delivered this speech at Oxford University. It has since been republished countless times due to its sheer eloquence and unanswered articulation of the 3 "lost tools" in classical education: grammar, logic and rhetoric.

30 review for The Lost Tools of Learning

  1. 4 out of 5

    Skylar Burris

    Since this paper is known to have had great influence on the emergence of the classical schooling movement, I could not help but include it in my article Learning How to Think: A Reading List for Parents Considering Classical Education.”. I first read it about the time I decided to send my child to a classical Christian school. Sayers argues “that if we are to produce a society of educated people, fitted to preserve their intellectual freedom amid the complex pressures of our modern society, we Since this paper is known to have had great influence on the emergence of the classical schooling movement, I could not help but include it in my article Learning How to Think: A Reading List for Parents Considering Classical Education.”. I first read it about the time I decided to send my child to a classical Christian school. Sayers argues “that if we are to produce a society of educated people, fitted to preserve their intellectual freedom amid the complex pressures of our modern society, we must turn back the wheel of progress…to the point at which education began to lose sight of its true object, towards the end of the Middle Ages.” “WHAT?” you might inquire. “You want to send your daughter back to the Dark Ages?” Not exactly. Somehow I don’t think my daughter would have enjoyed a very good education (or a very good life for that matter) during the Middle Ages. Just a hunch. (Sayers would ask you to define your terms. What do you mean by “send back”?) However, the classical methods of education do appeal to me. I, with Sayers, am not “comfortable” with the “artificial prolongation of intellectual childhood and adolescence into the years of physical maturity which is so marked in our own day.” “Have you ever,” Sayers asks, “been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side?” Yes, yes I have. Yes. “Have you ever been faintly troubled by the amount of slipshod syntax going about?” More than faintly. “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”? Well, I never could figure out how to answer the “is it not” construction appropriately. Probably because I didn’t have a classical education ;) . So what’s the classical system? The Trivium. Hmmm...Sounds a wee bit pretentious to me. But then, my daughter won’t start learning Latin until fourth grade so I don’t have to worry about that for the moment, and I’ll just speak English. The Trivium is a three part educational process, progressing from Grammar (employing Observation and Memory) to Dialectic (employing Formal Logic and Discursive Reason) to Rhetoric, in that order, because that order corresponds very well with the three stages of natural child development: “Poll-Parrot, the Pert, and the Poetic.” “Huh?” you might ask. (I did.) The first stage (poll-parrot) is when it is “easy and, on the whole, pleasurable” to learn by heart, but reasoning is more difficult. In modern education, there seems to be some putting of the cart before the horse. We ask children to build towers before giving them more than a smattering of blocks. We don’t give them a city full of blocks because we are told that “rote” learning is terribly boring and mind-numbing and uncreative and should be avoided in schools. Yet we forget how much very young children enjoy reciting nursery rhymes by heart, how they love to show off whatever they happen to have accumulated in their little, sponge-like brains. We forget how much easier it is for them to memorize as children than it is for us to do so as adults, and we let this precious stage of absorption slip by before the sponge is even one-tenth full. In the poll-parrot stage, “it is as well that anything and everything which can be usefully committed to memory should be memorized at this period, whether it is immediately intelligible or not.” The point is to gather together material for use in the next state. That next stage, the pert, is “characterized by contradicting, answering back…and by the propounding of conundrums. Its nuisance-value is extremely high.” (Sound familiar, teachers and parents?) The third stage (poetic) is a “self-centered” time when the child yearns to express herself. It is an age that “rather specializes in being misunderstood; it is restless and tries to achieve independence.” Now, I’m not entirely convinced of the value of making young children learn Latin. Yes, I understand English has many Latin roots. But it has many roots in other languages as well. Yes, I understand learning Latin will help children to learn grammar. But so will learning any foreign language. I suppose I am one of those people with what Sayer calls “a pedantic preference for a living language.” Also, I'm not sure about the precision of the Tivium's correlation with development, though I think it a generally better method of education than the modern tendency to expect abstract thought even before memorization. There may be too much overlap in the poll-parrot stage and pert stage to be able to distinguish them. When should you move to the second stage of the Trivium? “Generally speaking,” answers Sayer “so soon as the pupil shows himself disposed to pertness and interminable argument.” Well, my daughter’s been so disposed since at least the age of three, but she still has a lot of poll-parrot opportunity left in her.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Aggrey Odera

    I had a conversation with a friend a few months back about why our historical moment seemed to be so short on polymaths. We threw around a bunch of theories. For example, that much learning is driven by necessity, and since (at least Steve Pinker - who is weird btw - thinks so) our historical moment is "the best there's ever been" - meaning most of our problems have been solved (difficult to believe with what's going on in the world), we simply don't need to think or innovate as much about funda I had a conversation with a friend a few months back about why our historical moment seemed to be so short on polymaths. We threw around a bunch of theories. For example, that much learning is driven by necessity, and since (at least Steve Pinker - who is weird btw - thinks so) our historical moment is "the best there's ever been" - meaning most of our problems have been solved (difficult to believe with what's going on in the world), we simply don't need to think or innovate as much about fundamental interdisciplinary questions that affect humanity. Or, and this was what we ended up settling on, that specialisation was the cause of this; a charitable reading of which would imply that we were simply living in a time of scholarly intellectual humility, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Now, scholars spend years studying and writing about, say, "the effect of the green corn rebellion of 1917 on the fertility rates of the Amish community of Bumblefuck, Who-gives-a-shit, between the interwar years", or something of the sort. As a result, our knowledge is more useful, clearer, certainly more rigorous. But not many people can speak on lots of things; we are locked into our tiny silos to converse only with those interested in the same things as us. Take us out of our intellectual comfort zones and we quickly resort to platitudes - this is what many academic conferences (at least the ones I've been to) feel like. Early modern polymaths were different. Kant, for example, having left Königsberg maybe three times in his life, felt himself qualified to speak authoritatively and write a treatise on international relations - all the while being the most important moral theorist to ever exist. Supposedly all he needed were those beautiful enlightenment qualities of "sensation, logic and reason". Alexander Pope did science and wrote prose. John Stuart Mill was a technocrat, a politician and a philosopher par excellence. Sayers' argument in this essay is that the kind of education afforded people like Kant or Bentham etc.- the one which reigned throughout the middle ages all the way to the beginning of the enlightenment - was superior to whatever we have going on now. The most important thing to learn, she thinks, is how to learn - by which she means a mode of orientation that conduces us to acquire broad and useful knowledge, and this is what the early moderns were taught. Our education system, on the other hand, she thinks, places too much emphasis on subject-specific knowledge, on Fächer, which we end up forgetting as soon as we leave school anyway. The result is that she thinks we are nothing more than credentialed people who have no meaningful learning, and who probably can't face novel challenges well, simply because we don't know how to learn. The analogy she gives is of a kid who has had drilled into his head how to play a particular piece on the piano, but who when given a new piece, doesn't know what to make of it because he never learned his notes or scores. She thus proposes a return to the curriculum of the middle ages: the trivium - constituted of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric; and the quadrivium - higher training, typically in the Mathematical arts (and here Sayers showcases a fondness for the purported supremacy of logic over the likes of geometry and calculus: always the abstract universal over the concrete - and not useful outside itself - specific). Sayers thinks the intellectual developmental stages of children can roughly be dived into three stages: 1. The "poll parrot" stage - when they are young and mostly invested in mimicry and repetition, at which point it is a great idea to teach them grammar; 2. The "pert" stage - pre-teen argumentative little shits who, since they are going to be nuisances anyway, might as well be taught dialectics so that at the very least they'll annoy you eloquently, and 3. The "poetic" stage - that early to mid teen stage when people develop a language for themselves and thus yearn to express themselves - but also fancy themselves misunderstood, and when it is best to have them learn rhetoric. Sayers argues that this sort of education, as it was offered in the middle ages, was superior, for it laid the foundation to enable these children to learn anything: They could have gone through the first fourteen or so years of their lives without learning much science, but they could also go to university at 16, quickly learn science (for what they had learned, unlike us, was how to learn), and end up becoming remarkable scientists. This was how polymaths were created. Sayers' theory smacks of Platonism/ Straussianism in many places - some modes of education, some disciplines, even some kinds of individuals, are implicitly construed as superior qua this idea of education. But for some reason I, consistent Plato and Strauss basher, don't find Sayers' theory at all repugnant. I reckon it's because on some level it also has Deweyan pragmatic strands running through it, and having been uncomfortable with some applications of Dewey's education theories, I consider Sayers a happy balance. For example, she thinks classical European languages - most especially Latin - should be taught to kids as early as possible, but this is not because Latin is intrinsically special in some capacity (as someone like, say, Allan Bloom or Anthony Kronman would probably argue), but only because she thinks it will make the acquisition of other (European) languages easier. She thinks children necessarily need guidance and direction in their intellectual endeavours (not the perversion of Dewey's Democracy & Education that has taken over recently, where children are basically allowed to do whatever the fuck they want because education should be "experimental" and geared towards personal discovery). But she also thinks children need to be given space to reasonably disagree with adults, and that it is in fact important to encourage such disagreement and self expression (hence the teaching of dialectic to little shits). I think my appreciation is heightened because she struck a balance for me between tiger mom (actually very lovely in person despite her shady politics) and the crass "liberal" parenting that provides kids with no instruction or direction other than to "discover" themselves. I personally wish someone had been firm with me as a child; given me a useful course of instruction to follow; taught me dialectics and rhetoric when I was a pre/early teen - but also given me the tools to question and the language to think for myself and self-define. It would have made me a better learner, I think a better human, and oh so much better at expressing myself.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lee Reed

    There are a lot of people who are huge fans of this essay (it is really more of an essay than a book) but in it Sayers is really just rehashing ideas presented many years before by John Henry Newman. Newman was a leader in the Oxford movement in England and wrote extensively on education. Sayers work is her own interpretation of that work and simply no where near as good. Both works call for a return to the foundations of a classic education, though even this Sayers re-interprets a bit. There is There are a lot of people who are huge fans of this essay (it is really more of an essay than a book) but in it Sayers is really just rehashing ideas presented many years before by John Henry Newman. Newman was a leader in the Oxford movement in England and wrote extensively on education. Sayers work is her own interpretation of that work and simply no where near as good. Both works call for a return to the foundations of a classic education, though even this Sayers re-interprets a bit. There is some good to be found in Sayers work, but you would be better served to read Newman's "The Idea of a University..." which is available from Amazon for free.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ray LaManna

    This essay was written by Sayers in 1947 in the post-World War II era. She makes a strong case for the classical Trivium-Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric...in today's parlance "critical thinking." Having been a product of this classical approach I can say that it is immensely helpful. If you don't know how to think and express your thoughts coherently then life becomes a jumble of mindless movements. While some of her language is stilted with age, this essay is well worth the effort. This essay was written by Sayers in 1947 in the post-World War II era. She makes a strong case for the classical Trivium-Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric...in today's parlance "critical thinking." Having been a product of this classical approach I can say that it is immensely helpful. If you don't know how to think and express your thoughts coherently then life becomes a jumble of mindless movements. While some of her language is stilted with age, this essay is well worth the effort.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Thomas Sowell put it, "The problem isn't that Johnny can't read. The problem isn't even that Johnny can't think. The problem is that Johnny doesn't know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling." My mother taught for 15 years at one of the better schools in the county, and often lamented the inability and/or unwillngness of students to think critically. As I began teaching and mentoring high school age, I saw what she meant. I ordered this on audio and listened to it two times through. I fou Thomas Sowell put it, "The problem isn't that Johnny can't read. The problem isn't even that Johnny can't think. The problem is that Johnny doesn't know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling." My mother taught for 15 years at one of the better schools in the county, and often lamented the inability and/or unwillngness of students to think critically. As I began teaching and mentoring high school age, I saw what she meant. I ordered this on audio and listened to it two times through. I found it mind-boggling and paradigm-shifting. It was of particular interest to me that Sayers gave this lecture in 1947; it could very well be for today, and how much more so with what the internet vomits out at our young people continuously, let alone the yellow journalism and editorials which pass as news. My personal observation is that we have made the public schools, their unionized teachers, and other tax-funded extensions of the State sacred cows. In this way, they are inoculated against legitimate criticism, and thereby reform. Instead, they become political weapons, chiefly for Leftists. And, incidentally, I do think there are remarkable teachers out there that happen to care very much -- they are often functioning in a very broken and yes, corrupted, system. There are also a great deal of bad teachers out there, and not just poor educators, but bad people (in our region hardly a district remains untouched from recent teacher sexual abuse -- it is pandemic. Yet where is the outcry?). As for the structure of learning advocated here by Sayers, I find hers a logical argument. What percentage of classically trained students are high-functioning members of society in comparison to their counterparts? Has anyone undertaken such a study? I myself know an increasing number of families who have homeschooled, specifically in classical education, and they easily outshine many of their peers in manners, maturity, and drive. All of them are in some sort of higher education or entrepreneurs. But that's again an observation, not strict evidence to the infallibility of Sayers' argument. This I do know: that education today is a far cry from what Noah Webster and other founders declared it to be, and what they saw as its endgoal: to read, study and enjoy the holy scriptures, and thereby better know their Creator. I'm acquainted with Horace Mann and the Boston Unitarians and their role in socially engineering the education system. I've also studied the statistics of what happened when prayer was removed from public schools (far more than just symbolic) and secular humanism moved in to fill the vacuum. “For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armour was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mariangel

    Very interesting ideas about teaching and learning.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

    This book was a great defense of how we should educate our children from infancy to their late teens. Dorothy Sayers herself was privileged to have a father who was the chaplain for Christ Church at the University of Oxford. Sayers was born in the nineteenth century in a time when women were still not allowed to receive college degrees from Oxford. Despite that, I love how her father had a vision for his daughter to be educated. It obviously affected her. She passionately argued for a return to This book was a great defense of how we should educate our children from infancy to their late teens. Dorothy Sayers herself was privileged to have a father who was the chaplain for Christ Church at the University of Oxford. Sayers was born in the nineteenth century in a time when women were still not allowed to receive college degrees from Oxford. Despite that, I love how her father had a vision for his daughter to be educated. It obviously affected her. She passionately argued for a return to how humans use to be educated for centuries. On page three she writes, 'If we are to produce a society of educated people, fitted to preserve their intellectual freedom amid the complex pressures of our modern society, we must turn back the wheel of progress some four or five hundred years, to the point at which education began to lose sight of its true object, towards the end of the Middle Ages.' The Trivium, taught throughout ten to twelve years, was broken into three parts: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. The book goes into detail about the content of these subjects and even recommends ways to teach these subjects age appropriately so students get it. Sayers believes that the standards have become to low for students (and to think this was written in 1948)! I have truly become convinced that what she writes is true. Now being a father and wishing I personally had a classical education growing up, I will be raising my son in this approach. Read this book!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aleatha

    Favorite quote: "For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in Favorite quote: "For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects. We who were scandalized in 1940 when men were sent to fight armored tanks with rifles, are not scandalized when young men and women are sent into the world to fight massed propaganda with a smattering of "subjects"; and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotized by the arts of the spell binder, we have the impudence to be astonished. "

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    The main point of Sayers' essay, that learning to learn is more important than learning per se, is a good one (and a principle I was, more or less, brought up on). Somehow, it's more human - slower, more careful - and more eternal-facing (why cram before the exam? why cram before death?). It's particularly relevant today, when ignorance is regarded as a root cause for much (most?) misery in the world (cramming doesn't help. Just look at the students after cramming. Zombie movies could get inspir The main point of Sayers' essay, that learning to learn is more important than learning per se, is a good one (and a principle I was, more or less, brought up on). Somehow, it's more human - slower, more careful - and more eternal-facing (why cram before the exam? why cram before death?). It's particularly relevant today, when ignorance is regarded as a root cause for much (most?) misery in the world (cramming doesn't help. Just look at the students after cramming. Zombie movies could get inspiration). Regarding the classical approach she advocates - I haven't thought enough about it to say anything worthwhile right now, but it certainly seems to have more going for it than whatever educators now think they are doing. Sayers writes with a clarity which (besides being a pleasure to read) indicates a lot of thinking happened before the essay... always a Good Thing. One last thing I particularly liked was the emphasis on the connectedness of knowledge, perhaps because I work in science - something that is, if we ask the gurus, singularly remarkable for its unified and confident grasp of Truth - and find that it is not so unified as all that. For example, upon being limited by specialization, we talk about 'inter-disciplinary science' and consequently miss the whole point. So, looking back on a rather long review for a rather short essay, I guess it exemplifies Sayers' tendency to intellectual provocativeness.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel

    Must read for educators Our modern education system is failing, deaf to change, and far from truth. Christians have either been naive or ignorant, and regardless of either at this point, are complicit in propping up public education. Public education is archaic and out of touch with reality. This is simply a must read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mistie

    Very similar to my own views on education.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tahira Maria

    Even more true in the present than in her time. Sadly conditions are far worse. Important read for anyone interested or dealing in education, parents especially.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael Wu

    Thought-provoking essay on the importance of classical education and its advantage over modern teaching methods. Here's a snippet: "Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined? . . . Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been frette Thought-provoking essay on the importance of classical education and its advantage over modern teaching methods. Here's a snippet: "Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined? . . . Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side? . . . And when you think of this, and think that most of our public affairs are settled by debates and committees, have you ever felt a certain sinking of the heart? . . . Is not the great defect of our education today—a defect traceable through all the disquieting symptoms of trouble that I have mentioned—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?"

  14. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    This short text is from a 1947 lecture by Dorothy Sayers on the importance of a classical education (not necessarily Latin, though she does make a good case for it; but rather the traditional education of the late classical world that the medieval world classified into the Trivium and Quadrivium). The key idea is that education should be as much about learning *how* to learn as it is about any particular subject matter (an idea central to the classical education and now almost completely extinc This short text is from a 1947 lecture by Dorothy Sayers on the importance of a classical education (not necessarily Latin, though she does make a good case for it; but rather the traditional education of the late classical world that the medieval world classified into the Trivium and Quadrivium). The key idea is that education should be as much about learning *how* to learn as it is about any particular subject matter (an idea central to the classical education and now almost completely extinct in the way "education" is organized). Recommended for anyone interested in the theory and practice of education.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa Bohon

    This made me love Dorothy Sayers even more than I loved her for writing Lord Peter mysteries. Why have I waited so long to read this little gem? She gives much food for thought about how we do education and considering the brevity of the piece, everyone involved in education should read it. It was free with Kindle credits and fun to read. "They are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects." This made me love Dorothy Sayers even more than I loved her for writing Lord Peter mysteries. Why have I waited so long to read this little gem? She gives much food for thought about how we do education and considering the brevity of the piece, everyone involved in education should read it. It was free with Kindle credits and fun to read. "They are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Erica Reagan Powell

    "The sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain." In just forty pages, Dorothy Sayers presents what we now know as classical education in a clear and convincing manner. I believe this is an important read for those of us who are parents and/or educators, to help us define true education and to provide us with some basic principles by which to guide our efforts. "The sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain." In just forty pages, Dorothy Sayers presents what we now know as classical education in a clear and convincing manner. I believe this is an important read for those of us who are parents and/or educators, to help us define true education and to provide us with some basic principles by which to guide our efforts.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kishor

    A solid essay on redesigning education, written in the late '40s. It definitely holds water even now in 2020, when a lot of people need John Oliver and his motley crew to remind them to use their own brains when consuming news and other media. tl;dr: learn to think, and what you think *about* matters less in the long run. A solid essay on redesigning education, written in the late '40s. It definitely holds water even now in 2020, when a lot of people need John Oliver and his motley crew to remind them to use their own brains when consuming news and other media. tl;dr: learn to think, and what you think *about* matters less in the long run.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marcás

    A remarkable and now classic philosophy of education. Short and so sweet. Dorothy argues, convincingly, for restoring the trivium and quadrivium in a way that bypasses any nostalgia. Still relevant, readable and necessary today.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Scott Guillory

    Excellent

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laura Minton

    While this is a great exposition on the Trivium...I’m not sure my mind can fully wrap around true Classical education and what that looks like in the home. My brain hurts a little 🤯

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jerrod

    Essential Much to be learned from this short essay. Essential reading for parents and teachers who care about education. This is something I should re-read every year.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Melody Schwarting

    A short, but helpful, essay on the application of the medieval Trivium to contemporary education (mostly for kindergarten-elementary school). As a home school graduate, I have some Things to Say. First, I was educated outside of the classical, Sayers-influenced movement. We were Charlotte Mason folks--lots of nature studies, hands-on, big picture, connecting one thing to another. We flirted with Greek and Latin roots, but never did the whole shebang. So, I'm coming to this essay as someone whose e A short, but helpful, essay on the application of the medieval Trivium to contemporary education (mostly for kindergarten-elementary school). As a home school graduate, I have some Things to Say. First, I was educated outside of the classical, Sayers-influenced movement. We were Charlotte Mason folks--lots of nature studies, hands-on, big picture, connecting one thing to another. We flirted with Greek and Latin roots, but never did the whole shebang. So, I'm coming to this essay as someone whose experience with the Trivium comes from medieval history class rather than the classical home education movement. Second, I get where Sayers is coming from in terms of the deficiencies of education. It's changed a lot since her day, and we live on a different continent, but one doesn't have to go far to find a lot of problems. Some are systemic--lack of teachers, wildly unequal funding, administrative problems. I only briefly studied in a public school setting before jaunting off to community college before I attended university, so my opinions are made "with a reasonable modesty," since the first paragraph of Sayers' essay encourages non-specialists to criticize with that corrective. As a freshman in a non-competitive Christian liberal arts college, I was a bit astonished by my own competency. What struck me then was the independence of my educational style. My parents had minimal face-time involvement with my education in high school. While they graded papers and administered exams and the like, they didn't provide lectures or formal discussions. We'd discuss my reading over the dinner table, incorporate it into family vacations (a legacy marking my adult life) and movie nights and literally everything. Home education is a way of life, not just a substitute for 8-3 public school. I became an independent learner. No one was looking over my shoulder or holding my hand. When I got to college, the skills I learned about time management and motivation from my own needs were invaluable for coursework. The British tutorial system was the closes thing to what I experienced. Many of my general education classes repeated material I'd covered in high school, which made it easy and frustrating (I'm paying to learn this stuff again?!). Sometimes, it felt like I was being force-fed the rhetoric stage again, even though I'd enjoyed the delectable courses at a leisurely pace in high school. Some classes seemed to be bringing underclassmen up to speed with where the university wanted us to be for upper-level classes. All this said, I think there's something to be said for Sayers' essay. She's not really setting forth an educational model here. It's a brief essay, and she's neither an educator nor a mother. A cursory glance at the home education internet shows that some people lack the grammatical, dialectical, and rhetorical skills needed to understand the limitations of her essay--she'd be appalled to find herself the godmother of the classical education movement. Yet, I think it provides a few correctives for anyone coming from an educational system that they feel cheated them. It is my honest-to-goodness opinion that high schoolers are expected to do too much memorization and too little critical thinking. A student with rhetorical skills can reason why the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, rather than glibly reciting it for a test. High school literature, history, science, and math courses should raise up intelligent citizens who are emboldened in their reasoning minds and not belittled by their disinterest in memorizing strings of context-free facts. As a society, our skills in reasoning have plummeted. That's one of the reasons why our current political climate is an inconvenient truth. Yet, I don't think high schools have to teach students basic life skills (mechanics, cooking, doing taxes, sewing, et c.) that they should have the privilege to learn in families and communities. The only places I see stepping into that gap consistently are public libraries. I believe that school should be for academic education, but it shouldn't be a relentless push to college, since college is not necessary for every teen. Non-academic education should be taught through families, communities, apprenticeships, et c., not that our society has any structured and consistent place to learn these things beyond YouTube and the library. But, that's for an ideal world. Until then, I'm all for reinstating shop class and sewing class and cooking class. Latin can wait.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    There was a part analyzing the discussions of how many angels can fit on the pin of a needle. That was interesting to read. I liked hearing how the discussions held meaning and purpose since today these discussions are cast aside silly. I agree with her that the purpose of learning is to learn how to learn. I like her focus on logic and the idea that higher mathematics (such as Algebra) are an extention of logic.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kiel

    A speech given at Oxford University in 1947 in book form, The Lost Tools of Learning is a call to return to proper education. Though over 70 years old it rings true with hardly any loss of impact over time, as so much profound wisdom of past ages often does. I’ll just share my favorite quotes. "...do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible?" "... A speech given at Oxford University in 1947 in book form, The Lost Tools of Learning is a call to return to proper education. Though over 70 years old it rings true with hardly any loss of impact over time, as so much profound wisdom of past ages often does. I’ll just share my favorite quotes. "...do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible?" "...have you ever pondered upon the extremely high incidence of irrelevant matter which crops up at committee meetings, and upon the very great rarity of persons capable of acting as chairmen of committees?" "...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." "For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects." "We dole out lip-service to the importance of education—lip-service and, just occasionally, a little grant of money; we postpone the school-leaving age, and plan to build bigger and better schools; the teachers slave conscientiously in and out of school hours; and yet, as I believe, all this devoted effort is largely frustrated, because we have lost the tools of learning, and in their absence can only make a botched and piecemeal job of it." "This reminds me of the grammar of Theology. I shall add it to the curriculum, because theology is the mistress-science without which the whole educational structure will necessarily lack its final synthesis.” 22 pages, 1 hour to listen. I wish everyone would listen.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Beth Anne

    This should be required reading for every parent! I was so challenged by her arguments about the way we learn, and I see how easy it would be to neglect learning how to learn for the sake of getting a grade. I am blessed to have been taught how to learn by parents and teachers, and I saw how much easier many things in college were because I was taught basic principles. I am so excited that I get the opportunity to put the tools of learning into the hands (and minds) of my children. The conclusion This should be required reading for every parent! I was so challenged by her arguments about the way we learn, and I see how easy it would be to neglect learning how to learn for the sake of getting a grade. I am blessed to have been taught how to learn by parents and teachers, and I saw how much easier many things in college were because I was taught basic principles. I am so excited that I get the opportunity to put the tools of learning into the hands (and minds) of my children. The conclusion is brilliant: "What use is it to pile task on task and prolong the days of labor, if at the close the chief object is left unattained? It is not the fault of the teachers--they work only too hard already. The combined folly of a civilization that has forgotten its own roots is forcing them to shore up the tottering weight of an educational structure that is built upon sand. They are doing for their pupils the work which the pupils themselves ought to do. For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Sayers argues that we have lost the proper, and traditional, foundation for learning and we suffer for it. We will continue to suffer. The Trivium is grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. Grammar is learning how to use a language at the basic level. Dialectic is understanding an argument enough to agree or dispute it. And Rhetoric is constructing and delivering persuasive communication. The Trivium is the medieval curriculum up to age 16. It prepares a person for learning at the university level and Sayers argues that we have lost the proper, and traditional, foundation for learning and we suffer for it. We will continue to suffer. The Trivium is grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. Grammar is learning how to use a language at the basic level. Dialectic is understanding an argument enough to agree or dispute it. And Rhetoric is constructing and delivering persuasive communication. The Trivium is the medieval curriculum up to age 16. It prepares a person for learning at the university level and it prepares the non-scholar for life. I agree with Sayer's conclusions about the benefits of a curriculum based on the Trivium and I sympathize with her criticisms of the present-day, far-from-classical educational approach. I do not like sharp, and somewhat nasty, tone that she employs to make her point. It is, I understand, an important apologetic for home-schoolers, and I'm glad that she wrote it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Adam Balshan

    4.5 stars [Education] A masterpiece in composition, and piercing in criticism. An essay that prompted the modern Christian classicist education movement, and one applicable across decades of applied education theory. Its brevity is one of the few, minor factors which kept it from 5 stars. Another is her assertion that education began losing sight of its object 400-500 years ago: this is not explained at all. To what event or series of events is she referring? Certainly the aristocracy of 18th cen 4.5 stars [Education] A masterpiece in composition, and piercing in criticism. An essay that prompted the modern Christian classicist education movement, and one applicable across decades of applied education theory. Its brevity is one of the few, minor factors which kept it from 5 stars. Another is her assertion that education began losing sight of its object 400-500 years ago: this is not explained at all. To what event or series of events is she referring? Certainly the aristocracy of 18th century England and America were fully educated in the classical sense? This is something I would have liked to know. Magnificent piece, otherwise. Highly recommended to all interested in education theory/criticism.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Keesa

    This tiny book is a clarion call to return to a time when children were taught to think and learn for themselves. I recognized much of my own homeschool education in its pages, although there were other parts that were not part of my curriculum that I would have loved to have (how delightful to be *taught* Latin as a small child, and how much easier than trying to *teach* oneself Latin as a teenager!) I desperately wish more schools taught like this...considering the current cultural and politic This tiny book is a clarion call to return to a time when children were taught to think and learn for themselves. I recognized much of my own homeschool education in its pages, although there were other parts that were not part of my curriculum that I would have loved to have (how delightful to be *taught* Latin as a small child, and how much easier than trying to *teach* oneself Latin as a teenager!) I desperately wish more schools taught like this...considering the current cultural and political situation, the ability to think and reason for oneself is tragically necessary. I will definitely be re-reading this book, probably several times, in the future.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gemma Elizabeth

    A thought-provoking discussion on the classical education model (the trivium) compared to the modern education system. Although this talk was given in the 1940s, the hard truths Dorothy Sayers lays out still ring true today, perhaps even more so. And judging by the time it has taken me to read and understand the arguments she sets forth here, I would have to agree that there are certainly some holes in my own education! Well worth a read if you’re interested in the history of education, homeschoo A thought-provoking discussion on the classical education model (the trivium) compared to the modern education system. Although this talk was given in the 1940s, the hard truths Dorothy Sayers lays out still ring true today, perhaps even more so. And judging by the time it has taken me to read and understand the arguments she sets forth here, I would have to agree that there are certainly some holes in my own education! Well worth a read if you’re interested in the history of education, homeschooling, or any related discipline.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    If I hadn’t known it was written in 1947, I could have easily assumed this lecture was given today. Many of the problems in education Dorothy Sayers was already seeing in her day have continued and I daresay gotten worse. So few students are being taught how to learn. Debates over technology in the classroom entirely miss the point. This confirms my desire for my children to have a classical education.

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