I tend to keep tabs on what’s new and medieval in the media by using Google and Yahoo’s news search features. Today, I noticed an search ad at the bottom of Yahoo’s listings for something called the “Quadrivium Academy”:
www.quadriviumacademy.com – Proposed curriculum for a college-level program that celebrates the Medieval and Renaissance periods.
Follow the link if you want to be confused. Though don’t be confused by the word ‘Quadrivium.’ That’s just a fancy Latin word for the 2nd tier degree in medieval universities, the study of the four subjects of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Combined with the trivium–rhetoric, logic, and grammar–it’s the evolutionary precursor to the idea of a “liberal arts” education.
Be confused instead by the existence of this paid advertisement. I visited the site expecting a sort of faux medieval, unaccredited university that would gladly bilk you out of some cash in exchange for a useless degree. But no, there’s actually nothing that I can find being sold at the site. It’s just a list of courses, majors, and requirements for a proposed medieval-inspired college degree.
There’s no contact information on the site, so there’s no way I can see for its proprietor to make any money whatsoever from the paid advertisement. WHOIS lookup has the site registered to an nondistinctively-named, and thus non-Googleable, woman who has a PO Box in Emeryville, CA. Yet every time I do a search for ‘medieval’, this person has paid Yahoo! to provide me with this link to a free, barebones sketch of a nonexistent university’s curriculum. I imagine that somewhere in Emeryville, there’s a blackboard with some Underpants Gnome logic on it:
1) Post description on Yahoo! of medieval university
I’m naturally suspicious every time someone points back to the trivium and quadrivium as a model for modern education, because usually the person doing the pointing doesn’t really know what teaching those subjects in a modern context would mean. In other words, the pointing people are often deeply conservative, in that Heritage Foundation kind of way. Usually, they’re just stringing hollow statements together like this one, which I took from a research paper at Alan Keyes’s Renew America site:
Furthermore, grammatically correct speech embodies several essential principles of metaphysics. For example, the correct use of the verb “to be” provides key insights into ontology, or the study of the nature of being. One is not likely to understand Aristotle’s distinction between “existence” and “being” without crisp language skills. However, we unknowingly make these distinctions every day if we speak with good grammar.
Pedantic prescriptivist* claptrap! I doubt you’ll be any better able to understand Aristotle if you habitually refrain from saying, “Don’t bother me, I be playing Mario.” Even when Dry Bones or Banzai Bill be in ur base killin ur d00ds.**
*The sort of person who thinks that it is very important not to end a sentence with a preposition. Theirs is the sort of pedantry up with which Winston Churchill would not put.
**This is the sort of internet meme reference that I really ought to provide an explanatory footnote for. But I’m too busy trying to figure out how to revise the previous sentence. And the previous sentence, because it begins with a conjunction. And that one, too! Ahhh!!!