Monday, December 03, 2007

The Utter Collapse of American Civilization

From today's New York Times:
None of the leading presidential candidates majored in Latin. Hillary Clinton studied political science at Wellesley, as did Barack Obama at Columbia. Rudy Giuliani had a minor brush with the language during four years of theology at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn when he toyed with becoming a priest. But then he went on to major in guess what? Political science.

How things have changed since the founding fathers.

Of the 7,000 books originally in Thomas Jefferson’s library, only a couple of dozen are still at Monticello. The rest were sold off by his descendants, and eventually bought back by the Library of Congress. The best-thumbed of those remaining — on a glassed-in shelf in Jefferson’s study — is a copy of Virgil’s “Aeneid.”

Jefferson started learning Latin and Greek at age 9 at a school in Virginia run by a Scottish clergyman. When he was at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, a Greek grammar book was always by his side. Tacitus and Homer were his favorites.


TJ said...

Yeah, dude! And remember those latino westerns, where they speak only Latin?

TJ said...

And moreover, do you remember the linguistic difficulties cowboys met, when Indians talked only in Greek?

What a mess! American Civilization will never recover!

Scott Carson said...

What makes you think the cowboys didn't know Greek? If they knew Latin, they probably knew Greek as well.

Oh, maybe you...uh, never mind.

John Farrell said...

Good article. I had 4 years of Latin in high school, and I'm still in awe of Jefferson and earlier polyglots.

CrimsonCatholic said...

Ah, but Obama went to Harvard Law School, which only produces the most brilliant and subtle minds.

OK, even I couldn't keep a straight face for that one. Somehow I doubt Obama is in the league of my classmate Jordan Schreiber, who is an absolute freaking genius and who is probably too busy improving the lives of children to run for office.

Mark said...

Speaking as a relatively young man (late twenties) whose college degree is in the sciences, reading about some of the great thinkers of the past makes me realize how much I have missed in my modern day education. My schooling was so specialized that all we focused on was advanced math and physics. Of course, we took the token humanities courses, but that consisted mainly of things like "Florida Literature" and "Technical Writing 101". Needless to say, a course in classics was no where in sight for my degree. How much now do I wish I had a working knowledge of Greek and Latin - Hebrew would be nice too! And my generation totally doesn't get this, either. Most of my friends (perhaps like TJ here)can't imagine why anyone would want to know a "dead" language - although, I contend, they're not really dead languages, but that's another topic - It's not that I need to know Greek and Latin for my career, but I would like to have a broader education. Plus, I would really love to read the great writings of the past, like Plato, Virgil, Homer, Augustine, Aquinas, the Biblical books, etc. in the original language. I think that's part of being educated in the full sense of the word.

Alas, I'm having to teach myself Latin, because I read a good bit of theology in my non-working hours. It hasn't been easy, but I do enjoy it. And it actually does improve your English!