I am truly enjoying coming into a school community this year that already has many great traditions under way. When someone pulled me aside and discussed the school’s logo with me, showing me how the Trinity and the Trivium are both pictured in the circles and triangle, I felt goose bumps appearing on my arms. These ideas fit one another. God has revealed Himself in His Son, the Word, and to pursue the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty embodied in Him, I must be a master of the skills or arts of the word, that of Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. This is truly a life changing realization. I had come slowly to that realization years before, but seeing it graphically represented reminded me instantly of how beautiful and compelling this idea can be in my life.
As we consider various principles that come out of the nature of a child, one clear principle is neatly exemplified by an understanding of the Trivium. In fact, it is illustrated in the very make up of our schools within Caldwell. Why do we call our three schools by these older and perhaps strange epithets of Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric? What are we saying when we do so? I believe we are stating that one way in which the Trivium is seen in the outworking of human life is through the stages a growing mind encounters as it becomes educated. More on that in a moment, but first let me map out where we are standing in the grand scheme of education.
Education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue. It is the training of a child’s tastes, an ordering of his affections, toward the good, true, and beautiful and away from evil, falsehood, and ugliness. There is certainly a great deal of content (grammar, facts) that a child must learn in order for this to occur. But to bring all those facts together into a cogent and wise whole, they must be built around ideas. And to do any of this well, the student must learn the skills or arts of a student’s work.
As Western man grew in his understanding of education, he came to see that there were two languages that needed to be mastered: that of the word and that of number. As early at 500 B.C. we had figured out that the arts of word included the Trivium and that number included what came to be the Quadrivium. I will develop this whole concept more some other time, but from these arts came a wonderful system of education that brought a man to a place of sound and liberal thinking.
Now let me take us back to the three schools within our school. As a student progresses in the growing their mind and soul, they go through stages that are very similar to the three arts of the Trivium. In the early years they are focused on acquiring a good structure and the rules for using language. They start gathering the things needed for clear thinking: words (the Grammar stage). But they begin developing in the middle years a desire to find the truth contained in those words, in short to think (the Logic stage). And as they begin to mature into young adults they want to start sharing what they know in a beautiful and artful way (the Rhetoric stage) which is why they all join a band in someone’s garage. But I digress.
Our school’s structure acknowledges the nature of children as they grow up into adulthood. We are not trying to change their nature as learners, or elongate their childhood, or rush them into maturity, but rather come along side the natural flow of growth that God has created in them. Now we are back to my goose bumps. Even a powerful idea such as the Trivium is wholly dependent upon the other “three” of our school’s logo: the Holy Trinity. God must be giving the increase to our planting and watering. Christ must be the Logos, the unifying Person of our studies, and the Spirit of God must be at work in us for any of this to “work.” If God blesses our school’s efforts, these children will grow up understanding how they fit within God’s created natural order, and love being His children because they have come to love Him, Who first loved us. And then we enter into the joy of His eternal Holy Family – the joy of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.