Why the Classical Liberal Arts?

Savannah Dixon Describes How She Sees The Fibonacci Sequence from Westminster Academy on Vimeo.

Westminster Academy’s approach to its curriculum is inspired by an understanding of the classical liberal arts and 1,500 years of proven success in producing some of the greatest thinkers and leaders in history.

In the medieval understanding of education, there were seven liberal arts divided into two broad categories: the Trivium and Quadrivium. The Trivium were the three verbal arts: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. These trained the student to reason and speak correctly and with eloquence. The Quadrivium were the four mathematical arts: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. Students of these arts learned to measure the world; in apprehending the workings of the world, they grew in their appreciation of its harmony.

Historically, the Trivium, with its emphasis on the development of language, was the foundation of education. At Westminster, we uphold this tradition, placing rhetoric as the pinnacle of education in grade school. Looking at the ideal graduate as an eloquent rhetorician, we plan down through the grades, a 12-K education, so that our very youngest are already learning the skills that will build toward that goal.

Classical Christian schools are known for framing their education in terms of stages using the categories of the Trivium. While we at Westminster would strongly argue that the mastery of these skills does not start or stop at a certain age, we do see the value of emphasizing certain skills during particular times in a child’s education. So our Grammar School maintains an emphasis on grammar – those foundational skills for learning which include all aspects of language development as well as the development of categories for learning. Our chronological approach to history and literature enables students to develop broad categories of time and space, “hooks” upon which to order knowledge, compartments for filing stories of the past and present. A strong foundation in arithmetic and the world of numbers in the Grammar School prepares our students for the advanced mathematics of the Quadrivium in Upper School.

If you are interested in learning more, read Dorothy Sayers’ 1947 article “The Lost Tools of Learning.” Her article inspired the creation of the first classical school in 1980.