The Lost Tools of Learning

The Lost Tools of Learning

by Dorothy L. Sayers

In 1947, Dorothy Sayers first delivered this speech at Oxford University. It has since been republished count times due to its sheer eloquence and unanswered articulation of the 3 "lost tools" in classical education: grammar, logic and rhetoric.

  • Category: Education
  • Rating: 4.43
  • Pages: 30
  • Publish Date: 2005 by Old Landmark Publishing

What People Think about "The Lost Tools of Learning"

Since this paper is known to have had great influence on the emergence of the classical schooling movement, I could not help but include it in my article Learning How to Think: A Reading List for Parents Considering Classical Education.. Somehow I dont think my daughter would have enjoyed a very good education (or a very good life for that matter) during the Middle Ages. But then, my daughter wont start learning Latin until fourth grade so I dont have to worry about that for the moment, and Ill just speak English. The Trivium is a three part educational process, progressing from Grammar (employing Observation and Memory) to Dialectic (employing Formal Logic and Discursive Reason) to Rhetoric, in that order, because that order corresponds very well with the three stages of natural child development: Poll-Parrot, the Pert, and the Poetic. (I did.) The first stage (poll-parrot) is when it is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable to learn by heart, but reasoning is more difficult. Now, Im not entirely convinced of the value of making young children learn Latin. Yes, I understand learning Latin will help children to learn grammar. Generally speaking, answers Sayer so soon as the pupil shows himself disposed to pertness and interminable argument. Well, my daughters been so disposed since at least the age of three, but she still has a lot of poll-parrot opportunity left in her.

There is some good to be found in Sayers work, but you would be better served to read Newman's "The Idea of a University..." which is available from Amazon for free.

By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word.

The main point of Sayers' essay, that learning to learn is more important than learning per se, is a good one (and a principle I was, more or less, brought up on). So, looking back on a rather long review for a rather short essay, I guess it exemplifies Sayers' tendency to intellectual provocativeness.

Dorothy Sayers herself was privileged to have a father who was the chaplain for Christ Church at the University of Oxford. On page three she writes, 'If we are to produce a society of educated people, fitted to preserve their intellectual freedom amid the complex pressures of our modern society, we must turn back the wheel of progress some four or five hundred years, to the point at which education began to lose sight of its true object, towards the end of the Middle Ages.' The Trivium, taught throughout ten to twelve years, was broken into three parts: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric.

Thomas Sowell put it, "The problem isn't that Johnny can't read. The problem is that Johnny doesn't know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling." My mother taught for 15 years at one of the better schools in the county, and often lamented the inability and/or unwillngness of students to think critically. It was of particular interest to me that Sayers gave this lecture in 1947; it could very well be for today, and how much more so with what the internet vomits out at our young people continuously, let alone the yellow journalism and editorials which pass as news. This I do know: that education today is a far cry from what Noah Webster and other founders declared it to be, and what they saw as its endgoal: to read, study and enjoy the holy scriptures, and thereby better know their Creator. I've also studied the statistics of what happened when prayer was removed from public schools (far more than just symbolic) and secular humanism moved in to fill the vacuum.

It was free with Kindle credits and fun to read.

Dorothy Leigh Sayers was a renowned British author, translator, student of classical and modern languages, and Christian humanist.