Monday, November 24, 2008

Um, yes.

Victor Davis Hanson gives us Ten Random, Politically Incorrect Thoughts, the first of which is this one:
1. Four years of high-school Latin would dramatically arrest the decline in American education. In particular, such instruction would do more for minority youths than all the ‘role model’ diversity sermons on Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Montezuma, and Caesar Chavez put together. Nothing so enriches the vocabulary, so instructs about English grammar and syntax, so creates a discipline of the mind, an elegance of expression, and serves as a gateway to the thinking and values of Western civilization as mastery of a page of Virgil or Livy (except perhaps Sophocles’s Antigone in Greek or Thucydides’ dialogue at Melos). After some 20 years of teaching mostly minority youth Greek, Latin, and ancient history and literature in translation (1984-2004), I came to the unfortunate conclusion that ethnic studies, women studies—indeed, anything “studies”— were perhaps the fruits of some evil plot dreamed up by illiberal white separatists to ensure that poor minority students in the public schools and universities were offered only a third-rate education.
Yes, please! I guess I am biased since I do have a Latin degree, but my experiences tutoring suggest that this is definitely the case. An opportunity to learn an ancient language or two and then to read texts written in it helps kids to develop some sense of perspective for history, literature and language. Since most of them currently have about zero sense of perspective for any of these things, I'll be hopeful and say it can only get better. (When I have a twelve-year-old student who's never seen the word 'petal,' we have an ISSUE, here, people. Uh, I KNOW...)

No comments: