Saturday, April 10, 2010

The importance of Rhetoric and the Trivium

It is now apparent that the US educational system has failed me. I was never taught Rhetoric, and it's causing me to be very frustrated. I have a deep hole to dig out of.

The classical education movement is interested in the Trivium. This is an educational system that teaches children in three age-appropriate steps.

  • Grammar is the words we speak, what they mean, and the rules for putting them together.
  • Logic is how to think about those words and concepts, and the rules of critical thinking skills.
  • Rhetoric is the means and rules for communicating those concepts clearly to others.
The education system I was brought up in did teach Grammar fairly well. It taught a little bit of logic, but not enough of it. Most of my cohort lack were not given the critical thinking skills necessary to be good citizens at the time we graduated, myself included. Rhetoric was right out.

It's possible to learn logic and critical thinking skills given sufficient life experience. When it doesn't happen, you either end up naive, or cynical. We seem to have an overabundance of both of those in the US at this time.

Where things really fall apart is the lack of proper education in Rhetoric. We don't know how to properly convey our thoughts and transmit them to others. The lack of proper rhetorical skills is really frustrating me at this point. I'm going to spend quite a bit of effort to catch up to speed in the next few years. Its sad that I wasn't taught this stuff 30 years ago.

Blogging has helped, as have various life experiences, including my current job as IT manager at a small marketing firm. It really opened my eyes when I learned the behind the scenes reasons for the way things work. I never thought about having to distill a message down before that point. I just assumed you just start talking until you've said the what they need to know. It's far more nuanced and requires a much higher level of skill than I could have even thought possible 12 years ago.

It is my hope that I can successfully help my daughter, Virginia, make it through all of the Trivium by the time she leaves our nest. I want her to have all the skills I have, as well as the ones I aspire to, when she starts her adult life. I want her to be a fully empowered citizen.

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