The seven ways
By now you might be wondering where the name Septivium comes from. Literally, it means “the seven ways” or “the seven roads” in Latin. In medieval universities there were two stages of education, the trivium followed by the quadrivium. Together these made up the septivium: “logic, the four liberal arts, natural sciences, and divinity” (ref). While I don’t aim to recreate the education system of the distant past it’s interesting to have a brief look at how a rounded education, as it was then, was structured.
The trivium consisted of:
- Logic (or Dialectic), the art of thinking.
- Grammar, the art of inventing symbols and combining them to express thought.
- Rhetoric, the art of communicating thought from one mind to another.
(All descriptions by Sister Miriam Joseph, quoted at Wikipedia.)
The quadrivium comprised:
Wikipedia suggests these four years of study gained the student an MA (presumably the trivium was a BA?).
In her 1947 essay, ‘The Lost Tools of Learning’, the English author Dorothy L. Sayers wrote about the importance of the trivium as a preparation for learning: “The whole of the Trivium was, in fact, intended to teach the pupil the proper use of the tools of learning, before he began to apply them to ‘subjects’ at all.” In an age where education is focused increasingly on gaining marks in exams much of Sayers’ essay still seems relevant as she talks of the need for children to learn about learning itself. They should be able to evaluate the texts they read, connect ideas from one subject to another, take part in debate and form a coherent argument, and, ultimately, continue to learn.
While I don’t plan to devote a comparable chunk of Septivium’s schedule to this kind of thing it does suggest that maybe some time should be spent on broader topics outside of the usual academic subjects: how to read, learn, reason, argue, etc.