SS #49: Dorothy Sayers’ Insights

The Sisters on Sayers – not the podcast you expected

This is the first of two episodes in which the Sisters say things about Dorothy Sayers — specifically, they say things about her famous essay, The Lost Tools of Learning. What sort of things, you ask? Today, we’re talking good stuff: the good, the true, the beautiful. Join us!

Dorothy Sayers’ essay, “Lost Tools of Learning,” is a significant source for the reintroduction of classical Christian education in America today; this discussion focuses on the key claims and aims of Dorothy Sayers’ summary.

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Dorothy Sayers on Classical Education

  • [1-17:13] Scholé Everyday segment
  • [17:13-] Lost Tools of Learning Favorite Quotes
  • [XX] Dorothy Sayers: Teaching the tools of reading and thinking – both
  • [XX] Dorothy Sayers on language arts
  • [XX] Dorothy Sayers’ anthropology
  • [XX] The Grammar Stage in Dorothy Sayers’ Lost Tools of Learning
  • [XX] Read aloud to practice reading skills
  • [XX] Dorothy Sayers recommends nature study
  • [XX] Dorothy Sayers v. Charlotte Mason

Today’s Hosts and Source

Brandy Vencel

Pam Barnhill

Mystie Winckler

Dorothy L. Sayers, 1893-1957, writer and scholar, but remembered for her mystery stories and her amateur detective, Lord Peter

Dorothy Sayers was an author and thinker. She was not an educator, but she was educated. Her essay “The Lost Tools of Learning” was delivered as a humorous, somewhat tongue-in-cheek address to educators, calling them to take seriously the tried-and-true methods of the late medieval period rather than rush onward with progressive educational theories.

“If we are to produce a society of educated people, fitted to preserve their intellectual freedom amid the complex pressures of our modern society, we must turn back the wheel of progress some four or five hundred years, to the point at which education began to lose sight of its true object towards the end of the Middle Ages.”

Dorothy Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning

Read “The Lost Tools of Learning” for free online.

Scholé Everyday: What We’re Reading

Mind to Mind: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education
Home Education in Modern English: Volume 1 of Charlotte Mason’s Series
School Education in Modern English: Volume 3 of Charlotte Mason’s Series
Towards a Philosophy of Education in Modern English: Volume 6 of Charlotte Mason’s Series
Bleak House
The Waverly Novels
The Thirteenth Tale

Commonplace Quarterly

Mystie has been enjoying the new publication, Commonplace Quarterly.

Mind to Mind, Karen Glass

Pam appreciates that Karen removed all the Victorian clutter from Charlotte Mason’s volume 6 magnum opus.

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

If anyone was a character study, it was Dickens; Brandy derives character insight from this tome.

Sayers’ purpose for The Lost Tools of Learning

Point made.

It will be pleasant to start with a proposition with which, I feel confident, all teachers will cordially agree; and that is, that they all work much too hard and have far too many things to do.

Dorothy Sayers, Lost Tools of Learning

The problem with today’s kids

“Have you ever followed a discussion in the newspapers or elsewhere and noticed how frequently writers fail to define the terms they used? Or how often, if one man does define his terms, another will assume in his reply that he was using the terms in precisely the opposite sense to that in which he has already defined them?”

Dorothy Sayers, Lost Tools of Learning

When we think about the remarkably early age at which the young men went up to the university in, let us say, Tudor times and thereafter were held fit to assume responsibility for the conduct of their own affairs, are we altogether comfortable about that artificial prolongation of intellectual childhood and Adolescence into the years of physical maturity that is so marked in our own day? To postpone the acceptance of responsibility to a late date brings with it a number of psychological complications which, while they may interest to the psychiatrist, are scarcely beneficial either to individual or to society.

Dorothy Sayers, Lost Tools of Learning

Point made.

Teach kids to think & read

“By the invention of film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them all for blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being masters of them in their intellects.”

Dorothy Sayers, Lost Tools of Learning

By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word.

Dorothy Sayers, Lost Tools of Learning

Point made.

Dorothy Sayers on language arts

Point made.

Dorothy Sayers’ anthropology

Point made.


Book, p. X

Dorothy Sayers’ anthropology

Point made.


Book, p. X

Dorothy Sayers v. Charlotte Mason

Point made.


Book, p. X


Mentioned in the Episode

The Lost Tools of Learning
Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style
How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture
Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education
Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Cultural Liturgies)

SS #97: Men Without Chests

C.S. Lewis’ small book, The Abolition of Man, is a must-read in the classical education world because he so pointedly reveals the problem with modern, progressive education. The first chapter, and the one most often quoted, is titled “Men Without Chests,” so often this phrase is tossed around. But what does it mean to be…
Read More SS #97: Men Without Chests

SS #89: Dorothy Sayers’ Latin Lament

Dorothy Sayers is author of the essay that brought back classical education as a major school movement: “The Lost Tools of Learning.” However, that was not the only essay on education she composed. Today, Mystie Winckler, Brandy Vencel, and special guest Renee Shepard discuss Sayers’ other essay, “Ignorance and Dissatisfaction,” to better understand Sayers’ thoughts…
Read More SS #89: Dorothy Sayers’ Latin Lament

SS #60: History as a Center Cannot Hold (with Angelina Stanford!)

Our guest today is the lovely and delightfully controversial Angelina Stanford. Angelina has an Honors Baccalaureate Degree and a Master’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Louisiana. For over twenty-five years, she has shared her passion and enthusiasm for literature with students in a variety of settings — everywhere from university classrooms to…
Read More SS #60: History as a Center Cannot Hold (with Angelina Stanford!)

SS #54: Gainsaying Sayers

Dorothy Sayers invented and introduced the idea that the three elements of the trivium correspond to the three stages of development in school children. On this idea many classical schools, coops, and programs are founded. But is it actually a classically sound idea? How does she describe and defend her position? The Scholé Sisters tackle…
Read More SS #54: Gainsaying Sayers

Want to talk about the ideas presented here? The conversation is happening inside Sistership.

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