Quote of the week

A “random, politically-incorrect thought” from Victor Davis Hanson:

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 Cesar 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’ 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’s 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.

Disclosure: I took three years of high-school Latin.


  1. Lisa Paul »

    22 November 2008 · 1:24 pm

    I’d have to agree with the Latin part (3 years from Jr. High to High School). I couldn’t for the life of me pick up a copy of the Aenid and read it by now, but the discipline has stayed with me. Also the ability to figure out a word from its Latin root.

    I would disagree somewhat with the ethnic studies, women’s studies, African American studies part. It’s nice to have proof for students that Dead White Men aren’t the only ones who ever said, did or created anything.

    I guess I just don’t see them as mutually exclusive. Make Latin a requirement and offer the “studies” as an elective — an extra class IN ADDITION to your core studies.

  2. sya »

    22 November 2008 · 7:41 pm

    I wouldn’t argue about Latin enriching the vocabulary, but for the one year I took it during high school, I was bored out of my mind. Maybe the class was being taught too slowly. As for discipline, I think learning how to play musical instruments contributed more than any language class. I’ve never taken a multicultural studies course, but I really doubt the whole subject is as worthless as he makes it out to be. Whether or not the class itself (of whatever topic) is worthless depends on who’s teaching it.

  3. McGehee »

    22 November 2008 · 8:31 pm

    Nine weeks in the seventh grade. Certe, puer.

    Um. And dinero. I think.

    No wait, that’s cogito, not dinero.


  4. Guy S »

    22 November 2008 · 10:46 pm

    signed up for Latin 101 going into my freshman year of high school. Sadly, only 2 others signed up for it and the class was canceled. They never offered it again (to the best of my knowledge). And I am the poorer for it.

  5. Tatyana »

    23 November 2008 · 10:21 am

    oh, that’s why I’m such a model of arrested development! Now you know.

  6. Kirk »

    24 November 2008 · 8:12 am

    Two years of Latin in high school — best investment of time the entire four years. Continues to pay dividends to this day, nearly 30 years after the fact. Of course, we’re too smart to teach our kids latin these days.

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