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Why the Trivium? – Classical Education 101

by Scott Phillips, J.D.

Many people ask, “What is Classical Education?” In order to answer this, we have decided to publish this is a three part series entitles “Classical Education”. We hope that this is both informative and enlightening.

Classical education is not traditional nor is it old fashioned; it is a proven methodology of training students “how to think” not “what to think.” It begins with understanding that the human mind develops in 3 stages – Grammar, Logic, and the Rhetoric Stage; this is called the Trivium.

To be honest, it makes sense. In the grammar stage, grades K – 4, students are taught facts and truths about the universe and life upon which they can build the rest of their education.

This evolves into the Logic Stage, grades 5 – 9, in which students begin to ask “Why?” And in a classical education they are encouraged to do so. This is a very healthy and constructive period of time as students are now relating the facts that they have been taught to the questions they have about life and the world that surrounds them.

After this, students move into the final stage in the Trivium, the Rhetoric stage. This occurs mostly in grades 10 – 12. In short, the educational process is reversed and students are now asked “Why?” and must defend the positions they take regarding the universe and the world that surrounds them.

In doing so, students learn how to take a position, articulate that position, and convince others that they are correct. Quite simply they are taught to lead and not follow, which is the difference between learning what to think versus how to think.

Please continue to read our series to gain a full understanding of Classical Education. The next article will be on the “Language Arts Focus.”

Scott Phillips, J.D. is the CEO and Headmaster for Heritage Classical Charter Schools/Temecula

Preparatory School. Twitter: @