Finally, You're Old
Enough and Smart Enough
To Voice Opinions and
Back Them Up! Woo Hoo!
Q. So grade
school is the "grammar" stage, middle school is the "logic" stage, and high
school and beyond is for "rhetoric." What exactly does that mean?
If you've made it
into high school, you've been equipped with "grammar," which is knowledge and
facts, and "logic," which gives you ways to reason clearly with knowledge and
facts. Now, in high school, it's time for "rhetoric" - the art of applying those
knowledge and facts personally in an effective way.
could think of grammar as knowledge, logic as understanding, and rhetoric as
you make it to high school, you've probably gained enough of a knowledge base
and experience with analysis to be able to take a stand on an issue and
communicate it convincingly to others, or look at a model of an invention and
give it a new twist that no one's ever thought of before.
school systems erroneously expect grade-school children to exhibit the
rhetorical skills that they aren't ready for, wasting their time with
"critical-thinking" activities when they don't have any facts or skills to
critically think about. Naturally, they fail, or produce low-quality products,
which would be unacceptable anywhere else but grade school.
In those same systems, unfortunately, there are many high
school students who have not mastered the "grammar" - facts, principles,
formulae, etc. -- of English, math, science and history sufficiently to be able
to handle the "rhetoric" stage of their educations, and so they fall flat. No
wonder they don't know the basics of their school subjects: they were never
given a chance to learn them! At least, not in a thorough, systematic way that
can give them success in high school and college.
NOTHING wrong with the kids. It's how the education system has messed up the
content of what is taught and the order in which it is taught.
Your K-8 education is supposed to teach you the basic
models of everything you study, what discoveries have been important in the
past, and what are the standard operating procedures in each area, such as the
rules of spelling for writing, or how you test a scientific experiment in a way
In the middle school years, you should have been taught the
causes and consequences of things so that, in high school, you will have
insight into current events and be able to apply your original thoughts and
ideas to those subjects.
Here's an example: a computer scientist learns the "grammar"
of computer operating systems at first, comprehends the "logic" of the
technology next, and then can write original programs that organize and present
data in a unique and useful way, in the "rhetoric" stage.
Grammar, logic and rhetoric form the trivium - the heart of a good liberal arts education. In high
school, if you have a quality curriculum and faculty, you'll have an
opportunity to pursue the quadrivium
as well - mathematics, music, astronomy and geometry. (The latter has to do
with understanding space, and includes art and architecture.)
set you up to study the sciences, including natural sciences and philosophy,
the moral sciences of history, politics and law, and the theological sciences,
chiefly the study of religion, which, ironically, is considered the pinnacle of
subjects to study under classical education thought lines, even though it has
been driven out of the curriculum by today's public schools. That's a sad
commentary in and of itself.
Classical Education: Towards the Revival
of American Schooling, by Gene Edward Veith, Jr., and Andrew Kern, and if
you wish your school district set up high school the way the classical high
schools in the book do, be sure and share the book with the powers that be in