Memory, Argument, & Persuasion

We've recently been taking quick looks at a few principles that distinguish classical Christian education from other methodologies -- its hows and whysits respect for the past, and its balance between nature and technology.

Classical Christian education champions the use of memory, argument, and persuasion to undergird all subjects. Comprising the Trivium, you may know them as grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

Yet memory, argument, and persuasion have fallen by the wayside in the 21st century. Other educational methodologies, not to mention real-world practice, replace them with Google, popular opinion, and various self-identities. Where once ideas and cultural practice were moored by a large body of personal knowledge, a moral paradigm for interpreting that knowledge, and a standards-based worldview for making that interpretation pleasing, now reality is defined only by the preferences of the individual, verified only by his feelings.

Memory (Grammar)
The book of Deuteronomy might carry a single theme: remember. Do not forget. Moses wrote the entire book, just before his death, as a means of reminding the Israelites of the knowledge of God, and of his gifts: "Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes" (Deut. 8:11). Classical Christian education encourages students in a similar way: learn the ways of God, of the way he made the world, and of the things he has given you. Remember, and do not forget. In a real way, this is why classical education emphasizes memorization, not simply as a utilitarian means of calling up facts when we don't have a smartphone, but as a way of writing the knowledge of God and his world on students' hearts. This kind of memorization creates thankfulness.

Argument (Logic)
"'Come, let us reason together,' says the Lord" (Is. 1:18), the Word from the beginning, the "Logic" made flesh (John 1:1) The nature of God is rational, his creation is orderly, and therefore classical Christian education seeks to mold students' minds to the mind of God. What are the rules of the world that we have been given? What are the rules of thought? What is God like? The answers becomes the standard for all truth, and for all discourse. Without it, the only coherent question becomes, "Who's to say?" Reality is ultimately rendered meaningless.

Persuasion (Rhetoric)
At the end of creation, "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). Within the first week of the created order, God made things, communicated them into existence, and persuaded himself that they were "very good." He did not simply form beings with mere functional capacity; he gave them beauty. In turn as created beings, we have a longing for everything lovely, and for the ultimate Loveliness of Christ. Therefore, classical Christian education trains students to take joy in their creations, to imbue their projects, essays, labs, and speeches with loveliness, reflecting the beauty of their creator.