The Lost Tools of Learning

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Sayers begins her essay "The Lost Tools of Learning" with a precise Apologia for the importance of switching to the older schooling model. She calls the readers' attention to the flaws of today's educational system, which she compares to schooling in the Middle Ages. Despite acknowledging that the literacy rate in Western Europe has never increased, she observes that the influence of mainstream propaganda and mindless advertisement has also reached alarming heights. The conclusion of Sayers is that even though the schools may be producing individuals who are learned, clearly there is a deficit in applying what they have learned in the later lives. Schools, in other words, are not preparing their learners on to think for themselves. Sayers offers a solution to the modern education problem by reinventing the Quadrivium and the medieval Trivium for the contemporary world. She justifies her reforms in education by observing first the widespread inadequacies resulting from the modern education (Sayers). While reflecting on the past in solving this contemporary problem, may seem to be an unorthodox approach to solving a problem, she grounds her thoughts on the clear definition of learning, medieval classical education model of knowledge and her observations pertaining to childhood development. From these knowledge sources, Sayers offers an educational curriculum which addresses various defects in the contemporary education.

Sayers notes with concern the widespread incapability of the school leavers in tackling new topics on their own. She links this inability to the result of the learners being instructed or trained by educators who perceive their main task being the factual knowledge impartation instead of training learners on how to think. Furthermore, learners are continuously being trained to perceive knowledge in terms of diverse disconnected subjects which do not have any relationship to the entire of life or to each other. This aspect, as pinpointed by Sayers, has resulted in a widespread incapability among the adult populace to think sensibly even within the public committee and debate discussion contexts. “Is not the great defect of our education today—a defect traceable through all the disquieting symptoms of trouble that I have mentioned—that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils “subjects,” we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning.” She notes that most graduates are susceptible to the media influence and experience inadequacy in disentangling facts from opinions as well as the proven from a plausible. When these graduates are participating in a debate or in committee discussions they are not able to refute arguments and answer questions from their opponents (Sayers). Moreover, they are not capable of discerning the scholarly knowledge sources or extracting information that is relevant from a reference source. Sayers presents that all these inadequacies are now critical because graduates are offered with various additional media sources to consume.

After ascertaining that the current methods of education are producing learners who are incapable of meeting the modern life demands, Sayers suggests a new curriculum that will lead to successful graduates. Sayers commences establishing this curriculum, first by examining the major purpose of education. The purpose of education according to Sayers is to study the ‘‘art of learning.’’ In her essay, she never defined formally the ‘‘art of learning.’’ Implicitly, Sayers offers a 3-part definition of learning based on her observations on child development. First, she observes that small children ``enjoy the mere accumulation of things.’’ Children, as they grow, enter the stage which is characterized by answering back, contradicting as well as conundrums propounding. After this, they enter a difficult age that entails reaching out towards the synthesis of what they already know. Following these observations, a three-part process of learning is obtained which comprises of assimilation, critical material review as well as the integration into the network of knowledge. By the fact that education entails the ‘‘art of learning,’’ education that is successful must entail all the three learning process sections. Surprisingly, the contemporary education lacks major components encompassed in the three process parts of learning (Sayers).

Sayers, in finding an educational curriculum which included all the three learning process steps, turned into the middle ages. She notes that the Middle Ages syllabus of learning institution incorporated two parts, Quadrivium and Trivium. It is imperative to notice that the Quadrivium syllabus was same to the contemporary subjects whereas the Trivium was made up of three stages that included dialect, grammar, and the rhetoric stages. As per this new curriculum, Trivium, a learner will be furnished with the learning tools long before they are expected to make use of them in any subject just like a carpentry student is taught on how to hold as well as wield a chisel and hammer before being provided with a piece of wood to work on. Under the stage of grammar, the learners learned language structure. In the Grammar stage, a child learns on the language structure and indeed grammar that is entrenched into any subject. For instance, the grammar entailed in history is dates and facts, the grammar in math is the memorization of sums, geometrical shapes, and the number groups, and the grammar in science is identification and naming of the natural phenomena.

Under the stage of dialect, the learners learned on how to make use of language in defining terms, constructing arguments and statements and in detecting fallacies. It entails learning on how to reason on the already acquired facts and applying them in all fields of learning and later life. Eventually, under the stage of rhetoric, also known as a poetic stage, the learners learn on how to express themselves in language. At this stage, the learner synthesizes into the coherent whole everything that they learned in the previous 2 stages and they are encouraged to express themselves by employing the already acquired tools. Pertinent to note is that these 3 stages are related directly to the learning process stages. Following these stages, Sayers goes ahead to construct a new curriculum that is based on the framework of the past.

There are many points in Sayers`s proposal that resonate with me particularly. The first point is her emphasis that all the knowledge is interconnected. In fact, there are a number of subjects that end up losing value or losing focus when detached from the rest of the disciplines. Another pertinent point that Sayers pinpoints which resonates with me is the necessity of working with as opposed to working against the God-provided stages of the natural development of a child. In our contemporary society, young children are constantly under pressure to participate in self-expression prior to being shown on how to coherently think. Likewise, children are taught on what to think about without ever being provided with the building blocks pertaining to thinking. The end result is enslavement as opposed to intellectual freedom for an individual who has never been taught on how to think in a rational and coherent manner.

In conclusion, in her essay ‘‘The Lost Tools of Learning’’ Sayers, suggests a new curriculum that addresses the issues involved in the contemporary schools. The solutions she presents to the education problems are grounded on the three stages of the learning process. Basically, her curriculum is established to develop learners who are able to review a material prior to agreeing to its facts, thus taking this method valuable in this era of the internet. Most importantly, the method of Sayers develops learners who comprehend on how to learn and this equips furnishes with the capability of continually educating themselves as adults.

Work Cited

Sayers, Dorothy L. The Lost Tools Of Learning. Wichita, Kan.: Center for Independent Education. Print.

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