Monday, 28 December 2015

trivium and hoi polloi

I’ve really been enthralled with my latest podcast discovery in Doctor William Webb’s Heritage Podcast project (thanks to a hale and hearty recommendation by Sharyn Eastaugh, creator and hostess of The History of the Crusades, to get on board with the syllabus before the ambitious project gets too expansive to catch up on back episodes) and had a welcome reminder on the virtue of a Liberal Arts degree—not just one in name but one that’s true to original core curricula as it was expounded in ancient times.
With participatory democracy burgeoning and society becoming more hierarchical but also urban, leaders of the Polis recognised the need for a basic civics education requirement to attract and retain individuals with the ability to distinguish philosophy from sophistry and developed a three-pronged prospectus called the trivia—grammar (the basic rules of communication—stringing together λογος), rhetoric (the art of persuasion and articulacy and perhaps the training to wield it for one’s own ends) and logic (the faculty to soberly judge the validity and truth of argument and perhaps keenly peer beyond grandiloquence). Once the tradition of active and engaged citizens started to be supplanted by feudalism and the fealty of labourers and the political man became a subject, his affairs rarefied and to be managed by hereditary kings, as the Classical World came to an end, basic education was something seditious and there was no demand for an informed and potentially rebellious under-class. Of course, the institution of the Church—with its own vested interests in sustaining a community of inquisitive and engaged members—was the mainstay of continuing-education—augmenting the trivium with four additional disciplines: mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy.
Perhaps these subjects smack of something a bent a bit toward the practical and vocational, their coursework—as with the unfolding of word, language—however, can be expressed as the germination of number, leading to number in space, number in time and then with astronomy, number in time and space. Perhaps we’ve again entered a time when a liberal education (the motto of my alma mater—which evolved out of a preparatory school and is rather a singular beast in higher-education is a Latin malapropism “facio liberos ex liberis libris libraque”—I make free men from children by means of books and a balance) is something to be disdained as a superfluous luxury or even a liability when the plebiscite is expected to keep its collective head down and not stint the ceremony of elections with engagement and activism that goes beyond party-membership and reinforced believes. Being schooled in a little bit of logic seems especially vital now for countering the techniques in the media and politics that present the fallacious and specious as something incontrovertible, and something (regardless whether one becomes a charismatic or not—I think one can’t truly start believing his or her own deceits if discovered through honest means) for disabusing ourselves of our own biases. Despite the tenor of the age, there’s no excuse for letting one’s faculties atrophy. Don’t let it rest on the President’s desk. Q.E.D.