What is a classical model of education?
Generally speaking, educational philosophies distill into one of two basic models, The cognitive developmental model and the behavioral model. The cognitive developmental model teaches a core of knowledge in a way that challenges the student’s thinking. The imparting of wisdom goes beyond the assimilation of facts to the teaching of values, truth, decision-making, and critical thinking. This model was perfected in the 15th and 16th centuries and educated most of the great thinkers and artists of the Renaissance and early Reformation periods. It was used almost exclusively in schools until the early to middle part of this century.
The model that most influences our country’s schools and teacher training today is the behavioral model. Developed early in this century, this model is built upon the principle of communicating information to the students and measuring their learning by how they recall and report that information on a test. Practical application and depth of understanding are not as strongly emphasized with this model. This model of teaching has been said to create technicians designed to produce good test scores rather than students equipped with knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and truth.
Trinitas Christian School utilizes a cognitive-developmental model commonly referred to as the classical model. It best respects the developmental stages of a child’s learning abilities and teaches in such a way to take advantage of and build upon those natural stages of cognitive maturation. Teaching and learning, therefore, follow a pattern from the more concrete to the more abstract. The classical model is built upon the Trivium used in the Middle Ages.
The following quote by Gary Watt summarizes the essence of classical education:
“The classical model excels in an understanding of the normal phases that students go through and relies on disciplines that have proven successful in ages past such as logic, Latin, and debate to best educate the child. It is the most successful application of the cognitive developmental model throughout history, and was the standard for education until the advent of the behavioral model in this century. Utilization of this model in Christian education is not a venture into uncharted territory, but a return to the model with the best track record in history!”
What is the Trivium?
The classical model of education is built upon the Trivium used in the Middle Ages. This Trivium consists of three parts:
- Grammar, which involves the memorization of basic facts about a subject, is taught to younger children who naturally love to chant, recite, and memorize.
- Dialectic, or Logic, is the study of argumentation and formal logic. This emphasis fits well with the middle and early high school years when young people begin to question, to challenge, to test things for themselves. The Logic stage will teach them how to integrate facts into a coherent system that reflects biblical truth.
- Rhetoric, is the study of how the student learns how to express what he thinks in a manner worthy of the Truth. Obviously, rhetoric includes teaching speech, debate, essay writing, etc. Style and clear-minded expression are important.
All three elements are, to varying degrees, present at each grade level, but more emphasis, by necessity, is placed on the element that fits the student developmentally.
Why learn Latin?
This question is perhaps best answered by a quote from Dorothy L. Sayers:
“I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this, not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning any other subject by at least fifty percent.”
At Trinitas Christian School, formal instruction in Latin begins in the 2nd grade. By introducing a child to the language at an early age we take educational advantage of a child’s great capacity for learning vocabulary and his/her love for the rhythmic chanting of verb conjugations and noun declensions. The exercise of fitting the meaning, tense, number, case and gender of a Latin word to its English equivalent strongly develops analytical skills as well as vocabulary. A 1981 study of SAT scores placed students of Latin above students of French, Spanish, German, and Hebrew on analytical as well as verbal tests. Latin students scored an average of 134 points above the national average on verbal and 119 points above the average on analytical tests.
Isn’t classical education outdated and harsh?
Classical education teaches students facts, provides them with logical tools to use those facts, and perfects the student’s ability to relate those facts to others. This fundamental skill-set is more valuable today than it has ever been. The process of teaching students to think extends far beyond filling their heads with knowledge. Modern education, to varying degrees, has succeeded in teaching facts and some skills. Classical education helps students draw original, creative, and accurate conclusions from facts and then formulate those conclusions into logical and persuasive arguments. Modern subjects based in science and technology are taught in classical schools, through classical methods. Parents who are exposed to classical education recognize that its “back to the basics” approach contrasts with the distractions of modern education. Is the classical method applicable in a modern, technological age? The technology we have today was invented, in large part, by the classically educated. Man inhabited the earth for thousands of years without developing technology until the last two centuries. It is no coincidence that the groundwork for these achievements was laid within the last 400 years when classical education was at its height. Classical education teaches children the timeless skills of thinking, reasoning, logic, and expression. Our subject matter is as up-to-date as that found in any modern school. We simply add a depth and dimension through this time-tested method unseen in most modern schools.
As for the idea that classical schools are harsh, this myth seems to have begun with Hollywood’s negative view of anything traditional, including classical education. Movies like The Dead Poets Society depict harsh classical schools driving children to the breaking point. Remember, this is the same crowd that depicts Christians as wild-eyed, unthinking rednecks who prefer pointing the finger of indignation to performing an act of compassion. Reality tells a different story. Classical schools maintain order in the classroom. However, this does not translate to stoic classes where interaction is limited to an occasional, downcast yes sir. In fact, classical schools encourage extensive interaction between students and teachers. Students are not allowed to be disruptive, but they are constantly encouraged to offer observations, ask questions, interact, and make comments. In short, the classical method encourages and succeeds at creating a stimulating and enjoyable environment for students.
How can I learn more about classical education?
There is truly a wealth of resources available on classical education. See the Resources page on this site for a good sampling of these resources. See also the About Trinitas link to find out about Trinitas’ philosophy and practices.
Who is eligible to enroll at Trinitas Christian School?
Trinitas Christian School is a discipleship-based school and requires that at least one parent be a confessing Christian who agrees with the school’s Statement of Faith. Trinitas currently accepts qualifying students in grades K5-12. The school requires that prospective students go through an application process similar to that used by other schools and colleges. See the Admissions page for more information on the application process and for a printable application form.
How do I get more information about Trinitas and admissions?
Browse this website, visiting especially the About Trinitas, Admissions, and School Life pages. We want to help you learn more about classical and Christ-centered education and about the education that Trinitas provides. You can also contact the school office on the Contact page.