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Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Rident stolidi verba Latina. Latin is on the way back to the nation's classrooms according to the Independent. Probably this is an exaggeration, a little like the way the Liberal Democrats or their predecessors, the dear departed Liberals, would "prepare for government" after every good by-election result. Still, I can well believe Latin is coming back into fashion - partly because the very fact that it was such a minority subject has raised its status. There's another thing, too:
Dr Jones said. "Until the Sixties, people studied Latin because they were forced to do it. This had a spin-off in educators' attitudes towards it in the Seventies and Eighties. They remembered how they loathed it and did what they could to kill it off."and
...But slowly the tide began to turn. Dr Jones said Latin hit its "year zero" in the Nineties, when the collective memory of enforced Latin was finally expunged and the Cambridge teaching technique began to pay dividends. Lunchtime clubs sprang up, Open University courses were over-subscribed tenfold, and other universities began offering starter courses.
Mutatis mutandis indeed. It's certainly true, and welcome, that Minimus the mouse is a creation of a time when no one is compelled to study Latin. Brian Micklethwait often mentions that education-by-persuasion is the coming thing and education-by-compulsion the going thing. I'm sure he's right in general, both factually and morally. Yet I don't think the decline of Latin can be blamed on the fact that it was forced on children until the Sixties. Until the Sixties people studied everything because they were forced to do it, not just Latin, and, now you mention it, not just until the Sixties. There has to be some other factor present that would work against Latin in particular.
I blame Socialism. Regular readers will know that I blame Socialism for everything - and it is a fact that International Marxism is responsible for 62% of unharvested human navel fluff - but seriously this time, I think the modernising egalitarian spirit of the twentieth century wanted Latin gone because it was old and elitist.