A well-trained mind is what Susan Wise Bauer described as the fruit of a good education. A person with a well-trained mind can tackle difficult subjects, learn on his own, understand and structure logical statements, and finally, communicate thought from one mind to another. Bannister's educational program is patterned after the classical educational program called the Trivium.

 

What is a classical education?

 

A classical education is a three-part process of training the mind. The early years are spent absorbing facts and systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. During the middle grades, students are taught to think in terms of arguments. In high school, they learn to express themselves.

This pattern of education is called the Trivium:

   

For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.

 

- Dorothy Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning.

The Trivium as explained by Susan Wise Bauer

  1. The Grammar Stage

    "The first years of schooling are called the 'grammar stage' not because you spend four years doing English but because these are the years in which the building blocks for all other learning are laid--just as grammar is the foundation for language. In the elementary school years--what we commonly think of as grades one through four--the mind is ready to absorb information. Children at this age actually find memorization fun. So during this period, education involves not self-expression and self-discovery, but rather the learning of facts. Rules of phonics and spelling, rules of grammar, poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, the facts of mathematics--the list goes on. This information makes up the 'grammar,' or the basic building blocks, for the second stage of education."

    - Susan Wise Bauer, The Well Trained Mind

  2. The Logical Stage

    “By fifth grade, a child’s mind begins to think more analytically. Middle-school students are less interested in finding out facts than in asking “Why?” The second phase of the classical education-- the “Logic Stage”--is a time when the child begins to pay attention to cause and effect, to the relationships between different fields of knowledge, and to the way facts fit together into a logical framework.

    A student is ready for the Logic Stage when the capacity for abstract thought begins to mature. During these years, the student begins algebra and the study of logic, and begins to apply logic to all academic subjects. The logic of writing, for example, includes paragraph construction and learning to support a thesis; the logic of reading involves the criticism and analysis of texts, not simple absorption of information; the logic of history demands that the student find out why the War of 1812 was fought, rather than simply reading its story; the logic of science requires that the child learn the scientific method.”

    - Susan Wise Bauer, The Well Trained Mind

  3. The Rhetoric Stage

    The final phase of a classical education, the “Rhetoric Stage,” builds on the first two. At this point, the high school student learns to write and speak with force and originality. The student of rhetoric applies the rules of logic learned in middle school to the foundational information learned in the early grades and expresses his conclusions in clear, forceful, elegant language.

    - Susan Wise Bauer, The Well Trained Mind

Why The Trivium?

 

The Trivium provides us with some very important benefits.

It lays out a systematic pattern for education. It has clearly defined goals at each stage: the mind must be first supplied with facts and images then logical tools for organization of facts, and finally equipped to express conclusions. This is unlike modern educational programs which is often scattered and confusing.

 

It stresses the importance of the tools for learning:
memory, logic, and communication.

 

It is language-focused, not image-focused. When a student uses language, the mind becomes active as it is forced to translate words into a concept. Language requires the brain to roll up its sleeve and get to work.

To a classically educated person, all knowledge is interrelated, allowing students to make connections between different disciplines and providing a broader base of information from which to draw upon.

The systematic and rigorous pattern provides students with two advantages:

Rigor develops virtue in the student. Virtue, as defined by Aristotle, is the ability to act in accordance with what is right. Moreover, academic rigor allows the student to participate in what Mortimer Adler calls the "Great Conversation"--the ongoing conversation of great minds down through the ages. It allows for students to make connections by providing them with a solid base to understand the world's greatest works.