Filling Leaky Vessels

How Classical Education Forms and Fills the Mind

Introduction: The Importance of Distinctions

I am the only person I know who has his own personal metaphysician. Whenever I have a philosophical question I need answered, I consult him. I have had occasion many times, in the middle of a logic class, when one of my smarter students has asked a particularly technical question, to call him on my cell phone to get it resolved. “Oh Great One,” I will say, “Your humble apprentice seeks wisdom from him who knows all things.”

My ontologist. On speed dial.

My students have this vision of an old man in a robe and sandals sitting in the lotus position on the top of a mountain who can only be reached by climbing a treacherous path—or who you can call or e-mail during office hours.

He is, in fact, a philosophy professor who is an expert in medieval metaphysics: an expert on reality who teaches at a Catholic College in Kansas, where there are no mountains to sit on in any position. His name is Lloyd Newton, or, as I refer to him, Lloyd the Great and Powerful.

I mention him because I wanted to take note of his personal motto, which comes from the medieval philosopher Duns Scotus: “Sometimes say yes, never say no, but always make distinctions.”

Three Classical Terms

I want to talk about some bedrock principles that underlie the language arts program we have developed at Highlands Latin School and that we publish at Memoria Press. But in order to do that, I need first to discuss three terms that those of us who are involved in classical education like to throw around. I would like to take note of what they are and how they are related to one another.

In doing so, I want to make some important distinctions. The three terms are: “classical,” “liberal arts,” and “humanities.”

I think we “classical” educators who teach the “liberal arts” and focus on the “humanities” frequently use these terms simultaneously and interchangeably. We are in no danger of being arrested by the language police over this, but what we do—in language arts and everywhere else—depends on our understanding of what these terms mean and how they are distinct.

Let me just mention just a couple of brief things about the terms “classical” and “humanities” and then I want to spend the rest of my time talking about the liberal arts because that provides the context for what I want to say about language arts.

The Definition of “Classical”

The term “classical,” of course, means having to do with the cultures of Greece and Rome. Those are the two classical cultures. Its secondary meaning would refer to the entire subsequent civilization which derived from these two cultures through its digestion and later revival by the Christian culture of the Middle Ages and that was handed down, from generation to generation, through our education system, until the early and mid-20th century in America (later in Europe), when it began to be displaced in our schools in favor of other, more political and pragmatic concerns.

This civilization still exists but in an increasingly fractured and dis-integrated form.

By the term “classical education,” I mean the system of education that emphasizes this culture and attempts to pass it on to the next generation. This system of education has two chief and theoretically distinct components: the liberal arts and the humanities—the traditional set of learning skills and classical content. In other words, when we say “classical education,” we mean the liberal arts and the humanities—language, mathematics, and science on the one hand, and, as Matthew Arnold put it, the best that has been thought and said on the other.

The Definition of the Humanities

The humanities consists primarily of literature and history. They are not a means to anything else other than wisdom and virtue. They are not quite an end in themselves, but they are a very fundamental means. It is through history and the humanities that we find out what we are as human beings. They tell us the story of who we are and how we should act.

Every culture has its ideals, the chief of which is its ideal of man. The Greeks called it arete, the Romans called it humanitas. Education serves as the means by which this ideal is passed from one generation to the next. The Greek ideal was embodied in different ways by Achilles and Odysseus and the other Greek heroes: Jason, Hercules, Theseus. For the Romans, fed on the culture of the Greeks, these ideals were embodied in Aeneas, who flees the burning Troy with his family and establishes the new Troy, as well as the many heroes of its history: Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Horatius, the Horatii, Fabius, Scipio Africanus.

In the Christian culture of the Middle Ages, the equivalent would be something like Dante, who goes on a journey of his own, but a spiritual journey in the course of which we learn about Christian ideals. Others would include Charles Martel, Charlemagne, King Arthur, Alfred the Great, El Cid.

Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem—the three cultures: The study of the Greeks is the study of speculative, literary man in miniature; the study of Rome is a study of practical, political man in miniature; and the study of the Hebrews (and the Christian Middle Ages) is the study of spiritual man in miniature. The three cultures are what we mean when we use the expression “Western civilization.”

American culture is the beneficiary, through England primarily, of this heritage. We have had our heroes too. This is why we have traditionally told the story of the founding our Republic: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison—these are our Achilles, our Odysseus, our Aeneas. In later American history, when the frontier is being explored (an experience which, it has been pointed out, helped determine the nature of American ideals), someone like James Fenimore Cooper’s fictional Natty Bumpo probably served in this role during the 19th century, and, later, the Western hero of novels and the cinema could be seen to have embodied the American character in the same way as the Greek and Roman heroes.

The Definition of “Liberal Arts”

That brings us to the liberal arts. Even though we often call classical education “liberal arts education,” the term “liberal arts” historically has a more specific definition. The liberal arts are a set of generalizable intellectual skills, originally considered to be nine, but winnowed down to seven when, as Martianus Capella has cast it, the arts (represented as young maidens) were presented as servants to the goddess Philology, during her wedding to Mercury, and architecture and medicine were told, because of their concern solely for earthly things, to sit down and be quiet.

The liberal arts consisted of the three language arts of the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and the four mathematical arts of the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music).

And I should probably distinguish this from Dorothy Sayers’ use of the terms “trivium” and “quadrivium,” which, in fact, sparked much of the classical schools movement we see today, because hers is not a description of the historical liberal arts. It is rather a developmental analogy in relation to which the classical liberal arts serve as the analog. I don’t think Sayers had any intention of redefining the liberal arts, which the vast majority of her Oxford audience would have been familiar with, but I think she simply meant to use the historical trivium as a convenient metaphor for the developmental stages of the child as they relate to education—just as she used the historical quadrivium as a metaphor for the division of subjects.

I completely agree with Sayers’ developmental analogy, but when I use the terms “trivium” and “quadrivium,” I am referring not to what Dorothy Sayers said, but to what she assumed.

In contrast to our third term, “humanities,” the linguistic and mathematical arts included under the liberal arts serve a purely instrumental purpose. “The liberal arts are the ground rules of thought,” says David Mulroy, in his excellent book The War against Grammar, “not its end.” “In Aristotelian terms,” he says, “they are not speculative disciplines, aimed at learning ultimate truths, but practical ones designed to serve ulterior purposes. The value of the liberal arts, in other words, is instrumental—but no less necessary for being so.”

“We should not be learning the liberal arts,” explained Isocrates, making the same point, “we should have learned them.” They don’t make students better speakers or counselors, just “better learners.” “By studying them,” continues Mulroy, “one could discover thought’s basic patterns, which are what bind the seven liberal arts together. In contemporary terms, their subjects are the procedures that are hard-wired in our brains and do not differ from topic to topic.”

Mulroy points out that Socrates, through questioning, was able to bring Meno’s slave boy to a knowledge of the Pythagorean Theorem, “but no amount of questioning would enable him to discover the location of the liver”—One was derivative from the innate structure of thought: the other is necessarily a product of empirical investigation.

A Note on the Common Core

And I’ll pause here to take note of an interesting tendency in modern education theory having to do with this dual emphasis in education on skills on the one hand and content on the other that is relevant to what we are talking about here.

There is, on the one hand, a pronounced tendency to downplay basic factual knowledge—particularly if such knowledge is gained through that process which is the bane of progressive educators, memorization. You can see this pretty plainly in the current campaign for the Common Core Initiative. In the national science standards, for example, no child is ever asked to identify, name, classify, or describe any natural object. In fact, the words “mammal,” “bird,” “reptile,” and “amphibian” do not even appear in the standards.

And when I brought this up one night in a recent debate that was televised statewide, I was told that teaching content was less important than teaching “thinking skills,” to which I responded that this sounded very nice, but that the people who talk most about “critical thinking skills” are the least able to define what they mean by that term.

In fact, I have a friend—an emeritus professor of economics—who is writing a book on critical thinking skills. The thesis of the book is that no one knows what they are. If you ask any of the advocates of the Common Core to tell you what they mean by that expression, they will give you a blank stare . And if you ask them what Common Core’s thinking skills program is, they will change the subject.

My thesis is that classical educators are the only ones who have a critical thinking skills program. They are the only ones who have it, but most of them don’t know they have it—at least they don’t know to call it that.

I will give you the classical critical thinking skills program in seven words. Commit it to memory. Here it is: Grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. And you can, if it makes you feel better, as Mulroy points out, replace astronomy and music with algebra and calculus.

In any case, when people ask you, as a classical educator, what you do about critical thinking skills, you can reduce it to three words: The liberal arts.

Summing Things Up So Far

So, to sum up things to this point: classical education consists of two things—the liberal arts and the humanities.

In fact, I think many classical educators don’t know this, but the earliest definition of classical education is in Book IX of Homer’s Iliad. Phoenix (a human stand-in for Chiron, the wise centaur who, in Greek legend, was the teacher of many of the Greek heroes) is counseling Achilles and he says, “To thee did the old knight Peleus send me the day he sent thee to Agamemnon forth from Phthia, a stripling yet unskilled in equal war and in debate wherein men wax pre-eminent. Therefore sent he me to teach thee all these things, to be both a speaker of words and a doer of deeds.”

Since speaking and thinking are two sides of the same coin (we could add writing in here), we could say that classical education is teaching students how to think and what to do—which is just another way of saying “wisdom and virtue.”

The passing on of a civilization as an educational ideal and the formal development of the mind came under hostile scrutiny at the turn of the 20th century and was eventually displaced by other agendas. The old classical curriculum was slowly replaced by the new progressivism, which was more interested in reforming future society than in reading past classics, and by the pragmatic curriculum which demanded more specific job training rather than general mental training.

A curriculum that stressed how to think and what to do was turned upside down in the new curriculum, where the dual priority was not on how to think and what to do, but on what to think and how to do.

The Importance of Language Arts

In his 1847 Lectures on the Advantages of Classical Education, James Pycroft made the distinction between the filling of the mind and the forming of it.

When we talk about filling the mind, we are talking about the humanities—in the case of young children, basic history and classic children’s literature.

What is classical history in the lower school? For us it is the legends and history of Greece, Rome, and the Middle Ages, basic Greek mythology, and Biblical literacy. I hope it won’t be considered provocative in this group to say that perhaps a classical history program should focus on classical history. We are, after all, preparing them for a later reading of the classics.

In literature we simply read—and read aloud—classical children’s books. Children’s literature is largely a modern invention and it may be the one area (other than technological science) that we have a cultural advantage on our forebears.

One of the distinctives of our literature program is that we don’t try to smother it with analysis. I think we sometimes overdo the integration thing. When they are young children, we need to focus on a story without being called upon to impose a bunch of abstract considerations on it.

A classical teacher is called upon to teach, to delight, and to move. But when it comes to literature for young students, the greater emphasis should be upon the delight they receive from it.

The filling of the mind is the business of the humanities, but the forming of it, the liberal arts, Pycroft maintained, was the chief business of education. “The cultivation of the mind,” he said, “like that of a field, requires that we should first prepare the soil, and then sow the seed.” “You must sharpen the tools,” he says, varying the metaphor, “before you can make any progress in your work.”

If the instructor does not form the mind of his pupils before he starts filling it, said Pycroft, then “the labour of the instructor is like that of the Danaids, in mythological story: doomed to fill leaky vessels.”

In our scientistic world, we tend to want to leave the forming of minds to mathematics. This is a mistake.

Which Do We Need More, Math or Language?

I was recently invited to give a speech on our school and on classical education to the business/education partnership of a Chamber of Commerce in a fair-sized city in Kentucky. When I got there I found out that it was made up mostly of public educators (we are a private school) and that they were all part of the STEM initiative.

So, realizing how little these people would be interested in our private school, I ditched my speech, and talked to them about the importance of language arts. I said that we were all in favor of math and science. We taught the liberal arts and four of the seven liberal arts had to do with math and science. But, I asserted, language was even more important than math. Mathematics is its own mental discipline, but while the importance of mathematics is acknowledged by virtually everyone, the importance of language was not well understood, and that it was the responsibility of our education establishment to help the public understand this.

What was interesting is that the few business people in the audience were nodding their heads throughout my entire speech, but the professional educators sat there as still as statues.

Business people know better than to believe the STEM rhetoric. In our building there is a little tech company that sells restaurant equipment online. They have 25 or 30 employees. One day, I stopped by the general manager’s desk and I said, “Stephen, if I were to go around here and looked at the signs on the cubicles, could I get a good idea of what everyone here does?”

“Yes,” he said.

“So let’s see, you’ve got a couple of bookkeepers back here, right?”


“And those four geeky-looking guys back there against the wall, they must be the tech guys, right?”


“And everybody else looks like they’re in customer service or marketing.”

“That’s right,” he said.

“So, basically, the majority of employees in your tech company are communications people?”


“They’re not tech people?”


“Is there something wrong with your company?”

“Nope. In fact, the biggest problem we have with our people is just simple thinking skills. When we get them in here, we have to train them in problem-solving skills that they just don’t have.”

The Trivium As the Classical Language Arts Program

“[A] training in languages,” says Prycroft in his second point, “is by far the best means of forming the mind.”

When we talk about language arts in a classical setting, we are concerned with the first three of the liberal arts: the trivium—the traditional set of linguistic mental skills. The trivium, we might say, is the classical language arts program. Grammar, the structure of language; logic, the structure of rational thought; and rhetoric, the art of persuasive expression—these are the traditional linguistic skills.

Now since we are talking here in the context of lower schools, there is not a whole lot we can say about logic. It is a subject that, because of its necessary dependence on abstraction, cannot be profitably attempted before 7th or 8th grade.

In regard to rhetoric, there are what I would call pre-rhetorical exercises such as the progymnasmata—the 14 rhetorical skills of Aphthonius—the most basic of which we can start as early as the 4th or 5th grade, but rhetoric proper is really a high school subject.

Which leaves grammar.

And here I want to maintain and defend two things, both of which underlie what we do at Highlands Latin School and Memoria Press. The first is this: Grammar is the first of the liberal arts and the one that should be considered the central classical language arts subject in the lower school.

I’m assuming, of course, that students have been taught such things as basic reading skills. But these are not properly called liberal arts: they are a sort of scaffolding for the liberal arts which, once learned, can be dispensed with. I’m also assuming that students are being read to and that they are reading books appropriate to their age. Those are also essential, but this is education in the humanities, which we have discussed. Again, we are talking about language arts.

Like all liberal arts, grammar is a mental discipline and the first one children can and should learn.

Now I have heard it said to this that younger children can’t learn grammar at a young age. They can’t learn it, we are told, because it is too abstract for them. We all know that there is a developmental continuum that extends from the concrete to the abstract, and that the ability to understand the abstract nature of grammar doesn’t really materialize until 7th or 8th grades, sometimes not even until high school.

I concede this point.

But if we think that Dorothy Sayers is right in her developmental scheme—that there is an early grammar stage, a middle dialectical or logic stage, and a later rhetoric stage of learning (and I think she is right), then why are we calling the grammar stage the “grammar stage” if we don’t teach grammar in it?

I would maintain what seems to me to be an almost tautological truth: grammar is a grammar-level subject.

So what about this problem of grammar being too abstract for students in lower elementary grades? We can help ourselves in thinking about this by properly stating what the problem is. The problem is this: It is not grammar that is too abstract for younger elementary students, but English grammar that is too abstract—or, I should say, grammar taught in English. Grammar itself is universal, and manifests itself in different languages.

English grammar is unduly abstract for anyone, much less younger students, for two reasons: First because of the nature of the English language itself, and secondly because it is our own language.

The study of a language in which we already speak and write is necessarily more abstract than one in which we don’t. We are forced to take something which our constant use has internalized and subjectivized, and try to objectify it. It is like trying to look, without the benefit of a mirror, at our own eye: we have to back into its structure, and the concreteness of its structure is lost to us because it is simply too close to us to objectively observe.

I am reminded of the novelist Peter Benchley, who talked about when he was in high school biology class and spent a whole semester studying, under a microscope, what turned out to be his own eyelash.

The hardest thing even for grown intelligent adults to do is to analyze an idea they take for granted. This is the problem in most political debates today: The opponents simply can’t objectively analyze their most deeply held assumptions. To objectively view something we take for granted is one of the hardest things to do, even for the most intellectually mature adult. To ask children to perform the same kind of operation, which is what we do when we try to examine the structure of a language we already know how to speak and write makes the job of education that much harder.

And to make the job of teaching the structure of our language even more difficult is the fact that our language happens to be a language which is characterized by its lack of structure. It is highly idiomatic. I am told that, with the possible exception of Polish, English is the hardest Western language to learn for someone trying to learn it as a second language. Its grammar and much of its vernacular vocabulary is Anglo-Saxon, with some Latin introduced during the Roman occupation, and even more Latin introduced during the Norman invasion.

Never trust a language that is largely the product of military conquest.

The English verb system makes some sense, but its noun and adjective system is basically nonexistent. The noun cases, in fact, are almost impossible for many students to understand in English because you can’t see them. Again, they are abstractions. This is why we do sentence diagrams: to back-in to a knowledge of the noun cases. Whenever I get into a discussion on language with someone who actually knows the noun cases, they almost inevitably know them from having studied an inflected foreign language. The people who know them from English are, as we say in Kentucky, scarce as hen’s teeth.

All languages reflect the cultures that produced them. Our culture is a melting pot, and so is our language.

What we have done by confining ourselves to teaching grammar in English (or by doing it mainly in English) is to deprive younger students of something they could do if we taught it differently. In insisting on teaching grammar in English, we have made grammar a logic-level subject—and one that is not very logical.

Why Latin Should Be Used to Teach Grammar

So how do we do it differently?

The first thing to do is to use a foreign language to teach grammar. This solves the problem of the subjectivity of your own language. With a foreign language, you can see grammar objectively. You don’t know it, so you cannot take anything for granted. Grammar then becomes more concrete, since it is now a tool to translate the language rather than an abstraction having to be arrived at by a complex process of retro-duction.

If I can give just a personal testimony here, all the grammar I knew when I graduated from high school came from the two years of Spanish and the two years of German I took. I don’t think—or at least I am not aware—that I learned much of anything, other than maybe the parts of speech, from about eight years of English grammar instruction at a good school.

But many foreign languages are not that much more organized than English. Spanish, French, and Italian have their own idiomatic peculiarities and they, too, lack an organized noun and adjective system. So we are forced to look for something with more structure.

And this is where inflected foreign languages come in; they have a structure that gives them some important grammatical advantages. We can now see the noun cases. Whereas modern languages depend heavily on the location of the word in the sentence (the first thing a Latin teacher has to do is to break his students of thinking that the first word in the sentence is the subject), the grammar of a sentence in an inflected language is dictated in large part by the case of the nouns, which is indicated by their endings.

This kind of a language not only enhances the learning of grammar, it forces the learning of grammar. You literally cannot translate a sentence correctly from English into an inflected language without knowing the case system of nouns.

But then some of these inflected language have peculiarities too. There are a lot of exceptions which prevent you from being able to rely on the rules you have learned. I took two years of German. The rules always applied—except on Tuesdays. Or so it seemed to us students. It was highly irregular.

A foreign language solves some of our grammar problems. An inflected language solves some more. But a regular inflected foreign language—what a tool that would be! And it just so happens that we have one. And as luck would have it, this language not only provides us with a regular, structured grammar, but it happens to have provided our own language with over 60 percent of its academic vocabulary since it is the mother tongue of the culture to which we are all heirs.

It is, of course, Latin.

“Why,” asks R. W. Livingstone, in his A Defense of Classical Education, which was probably the greatest of the defenses of classical education in that great system’s last stand against the progressives, “should we study this phenomenon (by which he meant language) in Greek or Latin rather than in English or French? No doubt it can be done in the modern languages, but they have certain disadvantages. In English, at any rate, grammar study is artificial, we know the language already and have no real need to dissect it; while in Latin we must master the grammar in order to understand the language at all, and the study is therefore spontaneous.”

Says Livingstone, “If our object is to train exactness of thought, modern languages are far inferior to Latin, which has in a unique degree, in a degree no modern language exhibits, that logical quality of which so much is said in these discussions. The Latin here, if nowhere else, was an intellectual. He disciplined his thought, as he disciplined himself; his words are drilled as rigidly as were his legions, and march with the same regularity and precision. Modern languages, and English most of all, are lax and individualistic; in our grammar as in our politics we are non-conforming, dissenting, lenient to passive resisters and conscientious objectors; we have almost as many exceptions as we have rules. Our way is interesting and has its merits—more perhaps in life than in language. For in the ideal language law is supreme; Reason governs its grammar and the expression is exactly measured and fitted to the thought it expresses. Latin is such a language. Consider the rarity of exceptions in it. Consider how its grammar has to keep exact step with its thought.

“… Consider too the strict marshaling of the Latin sentence, where there is one main verb, and only one, representing the main thought, while the other subordinate thoughts, qualifications of time and place, etc. Are each in their subordinate positions, like a regiment on parade with the colonel at its head and the other officers each in his rank; and then contrast he lax discipline of the English, where nearly every verb is apparent a main verb, and it is impossible at the first glance to tell what is the main thought.

“… It need not be pointed out that the study of a language like this is a good mental discipline, an exercise in precise expression, in correct dissection of thought.”

In his third point, Pycroft states, “No modern languages can compare with Latin and Greek, as the means of forming: either essentially or directly of their own nature and structure: or, indirectly, as regards the masters, English or foreign, who must be employed.”

Using Latin to teach grammar allows you to begin to teach grammar through Latin to students as young as 3rd or 4th grade. This is what we do at Highlands Latin School. And those schools who work with us are doing it too. Latin is to our language arts program what math is to our math/science program: It is the core subject.

This was, in fact, what schools did when classical education was the dominant philosophy of education in Europe and America—until it was displaced by progressive and vocational education in the 1920s. Boys were taught their grammar through Latin and, to a lesser extent, Greek (and my theory is that if boys can do it, anyone can do it).

That’s what classical education did. You would find no greater agreement on any other issue among the old classical educators than this one.

What the History of Classical Education Teaches Us About Grammar Instruction

Now just because that’s the way classical education was done does not demand that we do it the same way. But it is interesting to look at the debate that occurred between the late 19th century up until the mid-1920s—which resulted in the wholesale shift in education from the classical to the progressive and pragmatic, what you find is that the main attack came against the teaching of Latin and Greek. And the main issue was whether Latin and Greek were mental skills. The battle was largely between the advocates of what was called “Mental Discipline” or “Formal Discipline” and their opponents. The question was whether there was any “transferability” between the skills gained by the study of the complex inflected grammar and thinking in other disciplines.

And the main argument used by the opponents was that there was no scientific evidence for this transferability. The answer of the classical educators was that they didn’t need scientific evidence: they had their own experience. They might also have added that to offer research evidence for the most basic procedures of thought, which is what the liberal arts teach, is a little bit like trying, by research, to establish that research is helpful.

Maybe you have heard of the study that found that most studies are bogus.

But, insofar as there are people who think that such procedures have legitimacy, time has told in this debate, and, as it turns out—and we know this now after we abandoned the system of education that assumed this transferability—the later scientific evidence purports to largely support it. In fact, transferability is the chief assumption employed by the modern proponents of “critical thinking skills”!

Today you can look at the studies that indicate how well students do on the SAT verbal section according the language they studied. These studies consistently show that students who study inflected languages do better than those who study non-inflected languages. In fact, one year the top three languages were Hebrew, Greek, and Latin—all, incidentally, dead languages.

Whenever anyone asks me why we teach a dead language, I always mention those studies.

It is also interesting to note that the old classical educators were not only defending classical languages, but mathematics as well, from charges that it should not be taught to all children in schools because they wouldn’t use it in real life! Tell that to the STEM educators. The same people who were opposed to “Mental Discipline” as it applied to Latin were opposed to the widespread teaching of mathematics on the grounds that the skills were not transferable.

All because they didn’t have a study at the time to show it.

Now, of course, we do teach Latin in many of our classical schools. We teach it later, we teach it only to some students, and we hurry these students into translation and then reading Latin—many times so quickly that they never fully master the grammar.

This is teaching Latin not as a liberal art, but exclusively as a humanities subject. I am not saying that we shouldn’t teach Latin to children as a part of the humanities—that is, teaching students how to read the great books in the original languages. But we should not use that as an excuse not to teach it as a liberal art, where it has its greatest value.

The fact is that, as much as we might like to teach our students to read Latin, most of them will never do this. But every child who studies Latin—if it is first taught as a liberal art—will achieve the mental discipline that is the most valuable result of the study of an inflected grammar.

Brander Matthews, one of the great English teachers of the 20th century, once said, “A gentleman should not be expected to know Latin: But he should at least have forgotten it.” A student who has studied Latin will probably forget his Latin. But he won’t forget his grammar.

Let me make one more observation related to logic and then I’ll conclude my remarks. I am frequently asked by homeschool parents and classical teachers how they can teach logic in the lower school. What can they do before tackling formal logic in the 7th and 8th grades? My answer is always the same: math and Latin—the quantitative and qualitative skills. The two most basic critical thinking skills are analysis and synthesis—making distinctions and seeing resemblances. Apart from mathematics, there is no better lower school training to do this than Latin grammar.

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