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"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to
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- Henry David Thoreau
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"Education, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises
from the foolish their lack of understanding." - Ambrose Bierce

Scholastics in the Middle Ages

The liberal arts of the Middle Ages (where the term originated) were the following:

Quadrivium: Arithmetic (mathematics), Music (the fine arts), Geography, Astronomy.

They were called "liberal" arts ('arts' could mean knowledge) because they were valuable for their own sakes and did not exist simply to serve some "practical" aim, hence free (liber) and noble (liberalis)—worthy of gentlemen. They were thus contrasted with the "servile" arts, which were merely useful, hence "slavish" (servilis) to their real ends.

The Quadrivium was preceded by the Trivium—the three 'arts' that constituted the first stage of learning and were necessary to proceed further. These were:

Trivium: Grammar (correct sentence-formation),
Rhetoric (speaking and writing skills),
Logic (reasoning skills).

(The trivium and the quadrivium together were sometimes referred to as the
Seven Liberal Arts).

A trivium was a place where three roads met. The meeting of the three roads is a primary goal in nurturing a good citizen.

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