AN EDUCATION FIT FOR A QUEEN

Elizabeth the First

Elizabeth I entered upon the duties of Queen in 1558 and reigned until 1603. Education in England declined after her reign, but during the early 1500s, when Elizabeth was a child, she was well taught.

Her education was classic mediæval, beginning with the trívium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Trívium in Latin means “the three ways.”

Grammar concerned itself with the proper use of symbols to form language. Logic sharpened critical thought and analysis. And in Rhetoric one perfected the art of speech.

Schoolmasters used the system of double translation, from English into Latin and then from Latin back into English, to produce facility and rhetorical elegance. Works thus studied engendered political and philosophical insight. The development from child into adult required moral instruction and this Elizabeth found in the Latin classics.

This study was considered preparatory for the quadrivium, which included geometry, arithmetic, astronomy and music. Together, the trivium and quadrivium constituted the seven liberal arts taught at mediæval universities. The contrast between the simpler trivium and more difficult quadrivium gave rise to the word “trivial.”

From all this I deduce three skills essential to learning by instruction:
1] discipline
2] repetition, and
3] modeling by example

This presupposes a society in which there is a moral consensus such that suitable models may be agreed upon for emulation. Discipline requires hard work. Repetition is boring. Critical thinking, like decision making, causes stress. But the brain of the person who is thus schooled is different from the brain of an ordinary person.

Elizabeth, with her command of languages, charismatic eloquence, and deep understanding of history, owed much of her success as a Sovereign to the rigorous discipline of a mediæval education.

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