About the Show

Robert Bortins, CEO of Classical Conversations¬ģ, engages in insightful discussions with renowned thought leaders who are in the fight to save our faith, education, business, and culture. Throughout these conversations, Robert uses the fifteen tools of classical learning to challenge listeners to seek truth in every arena of life. Refining Rhetoric with Robert Bortins is a podcast produced by Classical Conversations. Catch new episodes every week.

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Who is Robert Bortins?

Robert Bortins is the CEO of Classical Conversations, the world’s largest homeschooling support organization, known for a unique community-based, Christ-centered approach to home education. As a lifelong learner, Robert started this podcast out to interview well-respected thought leaders on major topics, issues, and controversies prevalent in today’s society. Hoping to encourage listeners to think critically, Robert tackles each subject using easy-to-understand mental tools derived from the classical model of education. 

Robert Bortins

What Are the Fifteen Tools of Learning?

To help guide his conversations, Robert consistently uses a set of classical tools known as the fifteen tools of learning. Then, during a brief “Classical Tools Recap” toward the end of each episode, Robert revisits and explains how he (or his guest) applied these tools of learning in their interview. These tools can be further categorized into the Five Core Habits of Grammar, the Five Common Topics of Dialectic, and the Five Canons of Rhetoric.¬†

Core Habits

Accordion Content

Know the appropriate word. Ex. seagull first, then introduce the black-billed gull.

Differentiate the word from other known ideas. Ex. Seagull with a black bill versus seagull with a red bill.

Remember the definition to build a knowledge base. Ex. Black-billed gull versus red-billed gull.

Use the body and senses to share knowledge. Ex. Draw or photograph a black-billed gull and a red-billed gull.

Use words, specifically written or spoken, to share knowledge. Ex. Explain the differences between the birds to a parent.

Common Topics

Accordion Content

Discover what something is. Ex. What is a bird? What is a seagull? 

Discover similarities first, then differences. Ex. How are birds and seagulls similar? How are they different? 

Discover causes and effects. Ex. What causes a bird to fly? What are the effects of birds flying?

Discover what else is happening at the same time in other places. When the bird is flying, what is happening below? What is happening above?

Discover what others say. Ex. What does Peterson Field Guide tell me about the bird?


Accordion Content

The flooding of words and sensory stimuli associated with an idea.¬†Ex. I want to share my birding adventures, so I’ll cull through my bird list, recordings, maps, and photographs.

The asking of questions through the Five Common Topics. Ex. Which birds from which biomes will allow me to share my knowledge?

The sorting of invention into organized thoughts.¬†Ex. I can’t share them all, so I’ll limit my topics to rare sea birds.

The choosing of the best way to present the thoughts.¬†Ex. I’ll write an essay exploring its name, features, and habitat and sketch an image of the bird.

The practicing of presenting the best thoughts.¬†Ex. I’ll practice saying the common and Latin names, pause to listen to the call, and then limit myself to a two-minute description of this bird.

Current Events Discussion

Toward the end of each episode, Robert approaches a current event, topic, or issue in the news. Rather than providing his own opinion on the subject, Robert encourages listeners to use the tools of learning to draw their own conclusions.

Father and son reading a book together
Will McCreery

Classical Crypto

“Classical Crypto” is a brief segment hosted by Will McCreery,¬†a Challenge program graduate and employee at Classical Conversations, Inc. Will is fascinated with all things cryptocurrency and how this fast-growing technology is transforming the way people and organizations transact digitally. In a simple question-and-answer format, Will dives into this vast topic to help¬†listeners of Refining Rhetoric¬†understand crypto and the blockchain.