What are the Classical Liberal Arts?

The liberales artes (literally meaning the "arts of freedom") have been the beginning and end of good education for 2000 years. To the Greeks and the Romans, they were the basic education every freeman needed to lead a good life. They were the counter to the artes serviles (meaning the "arts of slavery").

Christians cultivated and preserved this education because it valued truth, goodness, and beauty as its objects and was the best way to cultivate wisdom and virtue among students.

Eventually, it was formalized into seven "arts of learning." These were the "arts" necessary to be considered educated for thousands of years. Mastery of these arts was necessary to advance to any further training such as studying medicine, sciences, law, or theology. To put this is 21st century terms, if you wanted to graduate "high school," you had to master these liberal arts.

The liberal arts were (and still are):

  • Grammar
  • Dialectic
  • Rhetoric
  • Arts & Music
  • Empirics
  • Mathematics
  • Geometry

The first three (the "Trivium") centered around language arts and reasoning. The remaining four (the "Quadrivium") centered on mathematics. Once a student mastered these disciplines, he or she was ready to advance to the study of the natural (science, philosophy), moral (ethics, history), or theological sciences (theology, scripture).

Progressive educators in the early 20th century made a concerted effort to destroy this classical model of education and replace it with what they deemed to be a more "practical" approach to education that was less demanding.

Unfortunately, they were much more successful in demolishing the classical model than creating a viable alternative. Education in the 20th century has been characterized by an endless cycle of "new and improved" reforms that do not amount to much more than educational "fads." We spend more money on education than any civilization in history and we seem to get less for it.

Wisdom, virtue, and leadership were the hallmarks of a classical education in these liberal arts for thousands of years. Our families, workplaces, churches, and communities need people with these qualities. Indeed, they are, as Christ said, "the light of the world."

Our Savior Lutheran School is restoring the classical model of education to help raise up the next generation of leaders. We have integrated these liberal arts into our curriculum. Though there is slightly more emphasis on the Trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) in the elementary years, all of the liberal arts are taught at Our Savior-especially mathematics and music.

We seek to form eloquent confessors of the Christian faith and wise leaders in our community by returning the classical arts of learning to the classroom.