The division of learning into subjects is essentially an artificial one. Ultimately, all knowledge in its multi-faceted aspects of phenomena, quality, and change becomes one Truth, a simple, unified, singular, absolute reality Who is God. The seeing of the transcendent in the temporal world of change and phenomena becomes in classical education, nothing less than the fulfillment of all learning.
The classical educator works hard to identify, present and lead students to an encounter with the Unity that is within the diversity of the world and the various subjects of its study. “The beauty of the classical curriculum,” writes classical schoolmaster David Hicks, “is that it dwells on one problem, one author, or one epoch long enough to allow even the youngest student a chance to exercise his mind in a scholarly way, to make connections and to trace developments, lines of reasonings, patterns of action, recurring symbolism, plots, and motifs.” Each subject possesses its own inner nature which the classical student in the logic and rhetoric stages of learning is guided to grasp, verbalize and understand. Beyond the innumerable facts and details—students are taught to see the deeper connections and relationships that abide within a subject’s content—this is where perceptive thinking leads. Such perceptive understanding inspires fascination. Here the imagination can then extend learning, apply and evaluate it, and make judgments. It is at this point that a subject changes a student, impacts them as a person, a thinker, as one who has a direction that can be influenced toward great ends, a great purpose. Subjects are more than information. Each can be formative of a child’s mind, impressing its own qualities upon them. Are we, what we eat? Maybe so, for our mind certainly becomes what we study deeply.
This formative aspect of a subject is therefore as important, if not more important, than its facts and skills. The subject of literature not only conveys knowledge of other lives and cultures, but when reflected on carefully, teaches insight, perception, and compassion for the human condition. The subject of history not only conveys historical events, conditions and relationships but beyond these, it can develop judgment, discernment, and wisdom. Mathematics impresses habits of accuracy and logic. These qualities of mind are priceless and what differentiates the educated person from the uneducated. Deep thought in each subject is, therefore, a key goal of classical education. The classical educator intentionally leads a child to these experiences the ultimate unities of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty that lie at the center of each subject and all subjects.