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LATIN AND EDUCATION GILBERT NORWOOD THIS article does not aim at a complete or even summary account of that familiar dispute, "Is Latin Worth While?" The arguments, no less hackneyed than weighty, presented with an almost ritual regularity on both sides I have no present inclination to rehearse, but confess that I have grown a little tired of watching both parties ignore certain basic truths. These I propose to state, in the hope that the controversy may thus be drawn into better focus and the combatants dissuaded from working further mischief. Accordingly this article (as I called it) makes no pretence to structure or to fully developed argument, being little more than a list of quite separate facts regularly ignored or suppressed by both the assailants and the champions of classical studies-or of Latin: for no great distinction between Latin and Greek can in this connection be maintained. ' First, then, what is more frequently objected against Latin than that it has no value for practical life? To this our misguided classicists find no genuine reply, as they in effect confess by the evident spuriousness of their grandiloquence about detecting the meaning of a scientific word. Is it a good bargain to spend five hours a week for six years in order to know what "piscatorial" means without getting up and consulting the English dictionary? This absurdity is aggravated by a fact always concealed: to wit, that many of these scientific terms are based on Greek words so rare that one may study Greek for twenty years without coming across them. "Helminthology" for example: how many have ever seen the word helmins and know its meaning? As for "philatelist," twenty times twenty years of Greek would not disclose its meaning: though it is derived from Greek words, its sense would never be guessed. Why' not produce instead of this a retort which would ruin the anti-classi.cists' case? Greek and Latin have no practical use in most.people's lives, true; but no more have the other "secondary" or "high-school" subjects. The charge, then, is true but grossly unfair. How often have you yourself employed the French, the algebra, the science, in your own ordinary life? Naturally, I mean nothing so foolish as that any one person finds none of these studies 491 492 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY useful; but each must own that most of his secondary subjects have been of no practical use, the list varying with each person. French is used by some, algebra by some-and (this is my point) Latin by some. In the Great War, three documents of contemporary interest were at various times laid before me for translation:ยท one was in German, one in Latin, one in ancient Greek. For me, then, Latin and Greek were as practical as German. In fact, two subjects alone deserve the raptures of our muddle-headed practical men: reading and writing. Even arithmetic: come now, confess! Of all you learned, how much do you employ? How often do you use even long division? Those who urge that subjects should be useful in later life omit from the curriculum, with no sign of of misgiving, many pursuits which we all know are useful then; which, moreover, could be taught in school and college no less easily and effectively than those ultramodern subjects which are (in truth) not genuine subjects at all, but torn-out lumps thereof, stuck together with office-paste and given catch-penny names. Most people find French less us.eful in after life than poker, physics than the ability to listen brightly to bores. We in Canadian and British universlties ceaselessly express loathing for certain American universities where poker (so to call it) is taught. Our "practical" educationists should realize that they are wrong and the Americans right. The American educationist accepts outside standards in all their naked vulgarity, and reasonably "educates" to meet them. We accept the false standard, popularity, but stop short, in defiance of logic, when the results of our acceptance become too horrible. Nevertheless, in fifty years' time, poker will be with us (called, of course, "Social Amenities 2c"): for if we have no minds of our own...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 491-499
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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