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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
Quadrivium: Arithmetic (mathematics), Music (the fine arts), Geography,
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
Logic (reasoning skills).
(The trivium and the quadrivium together were sometimes referred to as
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.