Critical Education

I’m really digging into Dorothy Sayers’ Lost Tools of Learning lecture right now. I really want to have someone read it out loud to me, so I can pretend I am at the lecture where she first presented it in 1947!

(I had a guest preacher deliver the whole Sermon on the Mount from memory for a sermon one day and I’m pretty sure it was the best sermon experience ever… I want that for Lost Tools now!)

As I consider the purpose, the aim, of our homeschool journey, I come back to the idea that we must use the subjects presented as tools, as the proving ground for the ultimate education skill to acquire – critical thinking.

I also question whether I’m using the right terminology in my thoughts right now regarding the classical model… Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric can be used for different layers of understanding.

For example, from a skills-based perspective I know that I am Rhetorical in some tasks and skills, but absolutely Grammatical in others. (For example, I know a lot more about raising rabbits than the average person… but practically nothing about engine mechanics.)

From an emotional/maturation perspective I know that I look at the world much differently now in my 40s than I did in my 20s. Was I even capable of a Rhetorical perspective in my 20s? I certainly thought that I was. But even as I look back at the blog posts on this website from years ago I realize that I have matured in my understanding and the things that occupied my thoughts. So am I Rhetorical now? Will I ever actually be?

Through the idea of continuous sanctification into this thought process and my mind has been spinning!

So, in sum, I currently believe there are at least two tracks of discussion regarding the education of a student with the classical model: both the functional task track and the developmental maturity track.

Here’s Dorothy Sayers’ argument for education in critical thought:

“For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armour was ever 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 are 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 armoured tanks with rifles, are not scandalized when young men and women are sent into the world fight massed propaganda with a smattering of “subjects”; and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotized by the arts of the spellbinder, we have the impudence to be astonished.”

I can’t help but think that these words, although they were delivered 70 years ago, could have been written today. I’m trying to reconcile a desire for a classical, time tested and proven education, with an equally necessary need to help my students navigate technology and mass marketing.

It seems to me that Logic and Reasoning is an absolute MUST… both traditional and applied. I keep coming back to the idea that mathematics in a traditional sense (pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, etc.) is necessary, but there also needs to be some sort of applied mathematics like design/architecture, or robotics.

What are the texts or subjects you think could be used to help students develop the armor needed to function as strong critical thinkers in our current world.?

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