Classical education seeks to return to the old paths of wisdom and finds nourishment from those excellencies and virtues which our predecessors judged worthy of preserving. It is not concerned with the transient or ephemeral, but sends its roots into deeper soil. Thus, classical schools devote much time to the reading of old books as they cultivate a posture of respect and admiration towards the best of what has been thought or said.
The classical renewal places great emphasis on the trivium and on language. In contrast to modern progressive education which only “has a mind of metal and wheels,” classical education restores the primacy of the word over the gadget. Rather than the know-how of mechanical manipulation, a language-based education ascends to the transcendentals of truth, goodness, and beauty. And the crowning achievement of language is poetry for it moves us from the mundane to the spiritual through the symbolic layers of its words.
Over the many years of my education, I have found that the most exciting, interesting, and helpful things that I have learned is simply what words mean. We intuit the meaning of many words through context and common usage and avid readers will have a whole storehouse of words in their imagination from a young age whose meaning they can sort of explain based on the context of the book or sentence it came from, but when asked to actually explain the word they will be hard pressed to give a solid, satisfactory definition.