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Dorothy Sayers Was Wrong About the Art of Grammar

Dorothy Sayers famously wrote that Grammar is the “poll parrot” stage in which younger students memorize many facts. In her influential and often valuable essay, The Lost Tools of Learning, she asserts that she is replicating the medieval understanding of the trivium. We’ll explore the perspective that Sayers’ definition of the art of grammar actually departs radically from the Classical, medieval and Renaissance understanding of it and that her idea has some problematic consequences for our younger students. We’ll also discuss ways we could do better by our students by adopting the true, Classical definition of Grammar as the art of correctly using language and interpreting accurately. From this definition follow some broad practical suggestions for how we should approach teaching the art of Grammar in Classical Christian schools, motivated by loving the little things.