Classical Christian graduates excel as persuasive speakers and writers.
With composition, literature, and sometimes public speaking blended into “language arts” or English class, time is divided between literature and writing for one period each. Writing often focuses on simplified styles, public speaking is limited, and literature leans toward modern works, abridgments, and excerpts. Students receive limited, if any, experience in research, thesis development, or thesis defense.
What you might see: English class might read 2-3 accessible books and a few short stories per year. Often, they include popular current works. For composition, students often write short essays on personal, popular topics. Students may have literature electives later in high school, often centered around special interests.
- Time: In the secondary school, students have one hour of literature, English, and composition per day, often limited to 1 or 2 years in high school. Speech class is often a single semester course and takes place in the 9th or 10th grade.
- Coursework: No logic coursework is required or offered. Debate is an elective, if it is taught at all. Because of the fusion between literature and writing, literature is often limited to Modern American works written in the past two or three centuries. This inadvertently biases modern (often non-Christian) thought. Optional specific literature electives are separate from the rest of the curriculum.
- Sources: English classes typically use literary excerpts, anthologies, prose adaptations, or abridgments for ease of reading or to make time for composition exercises.
- Conventional Christian schools often overlook opportunities to apply English literary understanding to biblical or other historical Christian literary forms.
Bottom Line: Adopting the progressive approach to languages significantly narrows the educational experience. Logic, persuasion, and thesis tend not to be emphasized. Students can read and write for technical purposes but lack the more complex literary understanding that helps lead to wisdom. They have almost no meaningful experience in research, thesis development, and public speaking.
The Results: Students do not learn the art of discourse and debate with a truth-seeking purpose. The basis of contemporary education is that truth is individualized and compartmentalized.
The Trivium as practiced in classical Christian education (CCE) emphasizes writing, reading, logic, and speaking across all subjects. Our goal goes beyond learning grammar and writing mechanics. We strive to approach every subject with wonder and deep inquiry: How does it connect with other ideas? How does it connect to God? Why does it matter? Writing and speaking are taught in conjunction with research and facts, logical thinking, and ultimately, thesis development and defense. Classical classrooms emphasize original sources and full texts above textbooks. The Trivium identifies every subject in three parts: logic, grammar, and rhetoric. These three parts, according to the Trivium, aligns with students’ stages of development and are emphasized accordingly.
- GRAMMAR: K–6th grades—content and facts
- LOGIC: 7–9th grades—reason and understanding
- RHETORIC: 10–12th grades—discourse on ideas to build wisdom
What you might see: Students in Rhetoric focus on thesis development, reasoning skills, and defense. All courses emphasize writing and discussion/debate. Students regularly write and speak in a variety of formats. Juniors and seniors defend a thesis orally and in writing, usually more than 10 pages in length.
- Time: Students spend 4 years in the rhetoric program (high school) practicing the art of speaking and writing persuasively in all subject areas, with 2-3 years of dedicated rhetorical training. They begin with a thorough study of grammar in K-6. They advance to a study of logic and basic composition in grades 6-8 (logic school).
- Coursework: The Rhetoric phase involves 4 years of rhetorical emphasis in all high school courses with at least 2 years of formal rhetoric training in writing and speaking. In grades 6-8, you would notice “logic” classes and “composition and grammar” classes. One or two years of formal logic coursework is common. Students defend a major thesis in the later part of high-school. Students write and read extensively.
- Sources: The Classical Trivium draws from ancient, medieval, and modern sources, often primary, such as Aristotle, Cicero, or other medieval rhetoricians.
See the “literature” portion in the Classical Core section below for comparable information on literature and reading.
Rhetorical study is the basis of thesis defense, which is the long tradition of advanced college work. The process closely follows the traditional college thesis defense for masters and PhD level work.
A rhetorical study presumes that absolute truth exists and is not “personal” or different for every person. Thus, students are conditioned to look for Truth in every aspect of their education, not personal truth. Rhetorical antithesis inherently refutes postmodernism and multiculturalism.
The Results: Engagement with a broad-scope, fully integrated understanding of language, logic, writing, and rhetoric equips students to be competent problem solvers, communicators, and leaders, with a deep understanding of their faith.