Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Teaching the Trivium to children.

Teaching the Trivium to children is of interest to many of us learning it for ourselves right now.  While this subject requires more than a few simple comments, I wanted to share with you a comment I made in a post at the Tragedy and Hope Online Community (link below) in which the original poster was asking questions about teaching his children.  I'm posting my reply because it represents some of my more current thinking about how to understand the Trivium, as well as some indications of teaching this, or any, material to children.

You'll have to join up at the T&H forums to read the full thread, but if you're studying the Trivium and interested in engaging online (or just reading what others are posting) it is well worth signing up (it's free!) and joining in!

LINK: http://tragedyandhope.ning.com/group/teaching-the-trivium-to-children/forum/topics/personal-observations-with-teaching-to-trivium-to-children

A few years ago a good friend of mine started showing me the way around audio editing software as we were co-producing a podcast and he already had a good amount of experience with music production techniques.  Of all the things he said to me over the years one of the comments that sticks out the most relates to the Trivium and to Art in general.  He said that basically you had to develop various "tricks" and learn to use them in novel combinations, always looking for opportunities to try new things.

He was a skater as well and so he related the similarity in approach to his skating experiences, (approximate conversation) "Dude, I had a few tricks that I learned right away, and those took me far.  Then you learn a couple more difficult ones as you go along, and you're mixing all of these things together every day, like, new combos and just sort of attitude.  So you start developing your moves, your tricks, and pushing yourself and that just opens you up to even deeper understanding of your skill or craft or whatever."

As I let things I've learned about the Trivium boil and stew in my subconscious mind, more and deeper connections begin to form and I can see bits and pieces of potential patterns that I may be able to draw together into new and novel ways to describe the vast territory that is accessible to those holding the Trivium map.  These days, I'm starting to see it more and more as a collection of skills, or moves, or tricks, that are all found under one roof-- the Trivium -- and that perhaps one could even begin to look at the Trivium as a Toolbox.  Here you have the wrench of proper grammar, the hammer of logical fallacy, the saw of powerful rhetoric.  Less poetically, you have something even as simple as taking a cue from the Topics of Invention (see the Canons of Rhetoric) and asking questions of a subject by noticing its similarities and differences to other things, or by defining exactly what the thing in question is (whether it be person, place, event, idea, etc). 

We have the Trivium Method which is the figurative use of the three subjects--- the learning model of absorption, organization, and communication ---and that allows us to always keep in mind the general process we must undergo to learn anything.  Then we have the subjects themselves which are daunting to undertake for many but which yield fruits well beyond the typical reward to be expected from the study of subjects merely for their economic potential.  Digging deeper into those subjects, you can start to see that there are very many cognitive "tricks" or ways of handling information that are now available to you.

Teaching the Trivium to children requires the utmost in creativity, sensitivity, and intuition, but it can be done by all of us through great effort.  It requires that we teach in a very natural, organic way, which means that our understanding of the Trivium cannot be forced, it takes time to absorb it all and even then only to the best of our ability.  Rigidity should be avoided; keep things loose even while giving them a lot to chew on.  We teach best by example, kids pick up the little things we overlook sometimes and that means being very open to our subconscious patterns and habits.  The more tools we have at our disposal, and the better we are at using them, the more options we will have in what structures we build that lead our children to higher understanding.  All good things point to wisdom.

There is no "one right way," start-to-finish, algorithmic diagram that explains how to take you (see: You Are Here) from beginning to end with the result being a highly enlightened wielder of Trivium wisdom.  The Trivium is meta-disciplinary, it's organic, it is eternally chameleon-like as it fluidly adapts to whatever vessels contain it.  It is the Map but not the Territory.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rhetological Fallacies - A Graphic Learning Tool

LINK:  http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2012/rhetological-fallacies/

Rhetological Fallacies is a pretty slick post on a pretty neat blog (see post: A taxonomy of ideas?) that gives a nice visual collection of many of the commonly used and identified logical fallacies, one of the major tools we have for crafting our minds towards higher learning and application.

There are a few things to click on, one being the entire collection of graphic images, and there is even one that analyzes an argument section by section, identifying which fallacies are being used, if any.

I do think there is something to be said about the kind of entertainment approach to learning that people like Neil Postman consider (read: Amusing Ourselves to Death), but I also see something like this as a good learning tool and, yes, an attractive tool to inspire more people to study the Trivium.

I would post a sample picture but the entire thing is put into one whole image which is far too large for a simple blog post, but believe me that it's well worth a look at and is very colorful.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Stroll Through The Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences

This one comes from another Freemasonic source, which makes some of the discussion strange for non-Masons, but it's a good read for beginners. You will notice also that the author has the order of the Trivium subjects wrong, just as Sister Miriam Joseph does, by putting Rhetoric ahead of Logic. . .

A Stroll Through The Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences

By Richard D. Marcus

George Washington Lodge # 337 F&AM, Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin

Throughout our lives, we have heard of the liberal arts and sciences. But until we were presented with them in The Winding Stair lecture, most of us had only a vague notion of what they consisted. The Fellowcraft Degree commends Freemasons to study the Liberal Arts and Sciences, which are grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. When we study the historical background for this list, we will uncover layers of Masonic meanings for us in each of the seven areas of knowledge.

Editor's Note: The checkered floor represents a "threshing floor" which is a symbol of discernment (separating wheat from chaff), the first three steps represent the three degrees of Blue Lodge Masonry, the five steps represent the human senses, and the seven steps represent the arts and sciences. All of these are required of Masons to enter the innermost part of Solomon's Temple (or, the human brain/consciousness).

Parts of the original list date back to ancient Greece. By medieval times, the completed list had become central to educators and scholastics. The following remarkable woodblock print symbolically captures the relationship of knowledge to crafts.

This print is German from about AD 1500. It shows a goddess holding a book and a rod. She is called Wisdom or Sophia. The love of wisdom or the "philio of Sophia" is the meaning of the word Philosophy. We see Wisdom’s lifeblood pouring into all of the arts and crafts drawn as young men. All knowledge is united in this illustration. Painters, architects, musicians, and soldiers receive Wisdom.

Proverbs 9:1 says, "Wisdom hath built herself a house, she hath hewn her out seven pillars." Religious scholars have long speculated upon the seven pillars of Wisdom. Wisdom is poured out to seven vocations or callings. Wisdom also is seen presiding over branches of knowledge.

This leads us to a second woodblock print, which also is German from about the same time. This one includes clear words representing the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. Once again a book and rod, symbols of a teacher, are held by a three-headed winged Wisdom. She oversees seven maidens.

READ MORE: http://www.masonicworld.com/education/files/artjan02/marcus/sevenliberalartsandsciences.htm

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On the Purpose of a Liberal Arts Education

On the Purpose of a Liberal Arts Education

Robert Harris
Version Date: October 15, 2010
March 14, 1991

(Ed. Note: I think this article, in full or in part, would be a good addition to the "Trivium Intro" section of the Binder!)

When they first arrive at college, many students are surprised at the general education classes they must take in order to graduate. They wonder why someone who wants to be an accountant or psychologist or television producer should study subjects that have nothing directly to do with those fields. And that is a reasonable question--Why should you study history, literature, philosophy, music, art, or any other subject outside of your major? Why should you study any subject that does not help to train you for a job? Why should you study computer programming when you will never write a program? Why study logic when all you want to do is teach first grade or be a church organist?

In answer to this question, let's look at some of the benefits a liberal arts education and its accompanying widespread knowledge will give you.

I. A liberal arts education teaches you how to think

1. You will develop strength of mind and an ordered intellect. The mind is like a muscle; exercise makes it stronger and more able to grasp ideas and do intellectual work. Exercising the mind in one area--whether literature or sociology or accounting--will strengthen it for learning in other areas as well. What at first was so difficult--the habits of attention and concentration, the ability to follow arguments, and the ability to distinguish the important from the trivial and to grasp new concepts--all these become easier as the mind is exercised and enlarged by varied study.

You will also learn that thinking has its own grammar, its own orderly structure and set of rules for good use. Many subjects help the student to develop an ordered mind, and each subject contributes in a slightly different way. A careful study of computer programming or mathematics or music or logic or good poetry--or all of these--will irresistibly demonstrate the structure of thought and knowledge and intellectual movement, and will create the habit of organized thinking and of rational analysis. Once you develop good thinking habits, you will be able to perform better in any job, but more importantly, the happier your life will be. After your class in programming or poetry you may never write another line of code or verse, but you will be a better husband or wife or teacher or businessman or psychologist, because you will take with you the knowledge of organized solutions, of hierarchical procedures, of rational sequences that can be applied to any endeavor.

2. You will be able to think for yourself. The diverse body of knowledge you will gain from a liberal arts education, together with the tools of examination and analysis that you will learn to use, will enable you to develop your own opinions, attitudes, values, and beliefs, based not upon the authority of parents, peers, or professors, and not upon ignorance, whim, or prejudice, but upon your own worthy apprehension, examination, and evaluation of argument and evidence. You will develop an active engagement with knowledge, and not be just the passive recipient of a hundred boring facts. Your diverse studies will permit you to see the relations between ideas and philosophies and subject areas and to put each in its appropriate position.

Good judgment, like wisdom, depends upon a thoughtful and rather extensive acquaintance with many areas of study. And good judgment requires the ability to think independently, in the face of pressures, distortions, and overemphasized truths. Advertisers and politicians rely on a half-educated public, on people who know little outside of their own specialty, because such people are easy to deceive with so-called experts, impressive technical or sociological jargon, and an effective set of logical and psychological tricks.

Thus, while a liberal arts education may not teach you how to take out an appendix or sue your neighbor, it will teach you how to think, which is to say, it will teach you how to live. And this benefit alone makes such an education more practical and useful than any job-specific training ever could.

3. The world becomes understandable. A thorough knowledge of a wide range of events, philosophies, procedures, and possibilities makes the phenomena of life appear coherent and understandable. No longer will unexpected or strange things be merely dazzling or confusing. How sad it is to see an uneducated mind or a mind educated in only one discipline completely overwhelmed by a simple phenomenon. How often have we all heard someone say, "I have no idea what this book is talking about" or "I just can't understand why anyone would do such a thing." A wide ranging education, covering everything from biology to history to human nature, will provide many tools for understanding. Context is crucial for full understanding, and a general knowledge of the world gives you that context.

Read More: http://www.virtualsalt.com/libarted.htm

Hints for Remembering Better

Hints for Remembering Better

  1. Understand thoroughly what is to be remembered and/or memorized
  2. Spot what is to be memorized verbatim. It is a good plan to use a special marking symbol in text and notebook to indicate parts and passages, rules, data, and all other information that is to be memorized instead of just understood and remembered
  3. If verbatim memory is required, go over the material or try to repeat at odd times.
  4. Think about what you are trying to learn. Find an interest in the material if you wish to memorize it with ease.
  5. Study first the items that you want to remember longest.
  6. Learn complete units at one time, as that is the way it will have to be recalled.
  7. Overlearn to make certain.
  8. Analyze material and strive to intensify the impressions the material makes.
  9. Use concrete imagery whenever possible. Close your eyes and get a picture of the explanation and summary answer. Try to see it on the page. See the key words underlined.
  10. Make your own applications, examples, and illustrations.
  11. Reduce the material to be remembered to your own self-made system or series of numbered steps.
  12. Represent the idea graphically by use of pictorial or diagrammatic forms.
  13. Make a list of key words most useful in explaining the idea or content of the lesson.
  14. Form a variety of associations among the points you wish to remember. The richer the associations, the better the memory.
  15. Try making the idea clear to a friend without referring to your book or notes.
  16. Actually write out examination questions on the material you think you might get at the end of the term. Then write the answers to your own questions. Since you now have the chance, consult the text or your notes to improve your answers.
  17. Follow suggestions for reviewing. This is an important part of remembering.

—Courtesy of Virginia Tech

Monday, November 7, 2011

Two Methods of Reasoning- Inductive & Deductive


This is taken from the Bluedorn's Trivium Pursuit website, focusing on the study of the Trivium in a Christian context. While religious education is not for everybody, there is plenty of useful stuff at the website linked, so do look around and consider buying some of their products.

I do have a disagreement with the last paragraph and a half of this article, in which is written:

"The Bible is a source of true premises by which someone can prove the unobservable past (creation, lives of the patriarchal fathers) or the unobservable future (the first coming of Christ, the destruction of Jerusalem).

Both inductive and deductive arguments require faith. An inductive argument requires faith in its conclusion, while a deductive argument requires faith in its premises."

While it is true that one could have faith in their premises, for instance, and would go on from there to form a chain of logic, others would agree that you want to first test the truth value of all premises first, before making a conclusion, assuming that all relevant information is available.

On this matter, Gene Odening writes:

"Be certain to have a valid definition for the term FAITH. One caveat which was made popular for deductive reasoning was to "CHECK your premises". This does not state, have faith in your premises. Inductive reasoning requires valid sample size, logical progression (do the premises follow from one another), and demonstrable proof (as in experimentation in the scientific method). Again, this is more than faith; it is the exercise of the active literacies -- which are composed of grammar, logic, and rhetoric -- by both the person developing the valid conclusion and the person receiving the information contained in the conclusion. Wherever there is a profession of faith, there is an authority waiting in the wings to urge you to suspend your own processes of critical thought, while simultaneously telling you what to think."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011