The Trivium

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Grammar & Composition (9th grade)

 In this course, freshman students will learn the fundamentals of English grammar and language. They will learn that successful writing incorporates not just proper grammar but the relationships between words, prescribed rules, and content. They will explore all aspects of the writing process: brainstorming, outlining, writing, and revising. Students will develop an appreciation for the systematic foundation of language, specifically English. They will be encouraged not just to appreciate linguistic beauty and effectiveness, but also to analyze why certain writing is considered beautiful and effective. Through such analysis, they will develop the skills to improve their own writing abilities. In addition to learning the foundational rules of the English language, students will think critically and creatively by crafting well formulated and well-reasoned essays. By approaching language first from the level of the sentence, then progressing to the paragraph, and ultimately the essay, they will learn to write properly, clearly, and effectively.

Logic (10th grade)

Logic is the art which directs the actions of reason so that they proceed easily, in an orderly way, and without error. It was first described at length in six works by Aristotle collectively dubbed the Organon (translated “tool” or “instrument”) by later authors. Logic, then, is an instrument used to make abstract reasoning easier, to ensure its correctness, and to identify fallacious reasoning. This course mainly explores the logic taught by Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and innumerable classical and medieval authors, and delves into some of the original texts to do so. It also covers modern symbolic (mathematical) logic, and examines the impact logic has in modern thought and technology. Classical logic has three main parts: 1) definitions, in which the students learn how to define words properly; 2) statements, in which students study the logic of statements (i.e. sentences which can be true or false); and 3) syllogism, in which students learn how to recognize and construct proper syllogisms. There are innumerable smaller topics such as common fallacies, deduction and induction, analogy, and as time permits an examination some of the philosophical underpinnings of Aristotle’s logic.

Debate & Rhetoric (11th grade)

There are five basic processes in classical rhetoric: 1) Invention (coming up with effective arguments; 2) Organization (ordering one’s arguments and appeals so that they are more persuasive); 3) Style (using particular rhetorical techniques such as figures of speech); 4) Memory (memorizing your speech, and storing up facts, statistics, and anecdotes for use in speeches); 5) Delivery (practicing the actual delivery of the speech, and determining the proper gestures, intonation, and appropriate pauses). In writing essays, only the first three processes really apply, but all five are necessary to some extent in preparation for a speech. Some of the texts we examine during the year are Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” selections from De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, The Declaration of Independence, and we’ll draw from Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and Corbett and Connors’ Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student.

Etymology (12th grade)

The study of the meanings of word prefixes, suffixes, and roots is a tremendous help when taking standardized tests, but it is also a lifelong skill that greatly aids understanding of literature. The English language is a unique hybrid of German and French strongly influenced by Latin, Greek, and other languages. Students will be working with the Wordly Wise series of texts which employ word lists frequently seen on the SAT and other standardized tests encountered by high school students. Students will also be given their own personal copy of Websterʹs Collegiate Dictionary in order to become familiar with discovering the meanings of prefixes, suffixes, and word roots and have an appreciation of the parent languages that contributed to English. A goal of this course is that students will recognize related prefixes, suffixes, and word roots and therefore be able arrive at an educated guess as to the meaning of a word that they have not encountered before.