We used to joke that Latin, a decidedly dead language, had killed the ancient Romans and now was killing us. Still, I wouldn’t trade my brush with Latin for anything in the world.
As a believer in the classics, I was distressed to learn that Rush (Rush, say it ain’t so!) made some disparaging remarks about the value of classical studies the other day. Admittedly, the remarks were prompted by a pathetic sign carried by one of the brats at an Occupy Wall Street gathering:
I graduate college in 7 months with a “useless” degree in Classical Studies. I have worked very hard and am on track to graduate with highest Latin honors. I am in a Greek organization with many volunteer hours under my belt. MY JOB PROSPECTS? ZERO. ..WELCOME TO THE AMERICAN NIGHTMARE
Well, I do wish somebody in the classics department had bothered to tell this lad or lassie that the jarring locution “graduate college,” though used all too frequently nowadays, is incorrect. One graduates from college. But be that as it may…
A classical education, in addition to torturing students, which is never a bad idea, teaches them how to think and introduces them to some of our greatest literature. It can also be argued that a classical education instills basic skills that are just as useful in holding down a job as, say, a degree in communications.
David Freddoso, who, unlike lazy me, persevered to major in classics, is also a fan of the classical education:
In case you're a Latin or Greek major, languishing in some college and stressing out about your job prospects, let me tell you from experience: Keep conjugating those verbs and translating Horace, because it gets better….
I got a Classical education that included Latin and what is widely known as the "Great Books" curriculum. I want my children to get the same kind of education, in part because I don't want them to be mush-heads like the brainwashed protestors who trashed and torched Oakland yesterday.
Radical ideologies like Marxism and Anarchism thrive on the self-satisfied ignorance of students (and professors) who think all history can be boiled down to some kind of petty resentment, and who don't think about the long-term consequences of thefine-sounding utopian ideologies they adopt. Their narrow-minded fanaticism is less attractive, in my opinion, to anyone who has acquired a true appreciation for art, literature and culture that a Classical education affords.
If I had a magic wand and could do one thing for American education, it would be to bring back the classics.
I hope our young classics major will come to see that a degree in classics is far from useless but that Occupation Wall Street is the definition of useless.
And as Freddoso notes, it's a little early to give up on the job search.
What if Aeneas had bagged his trip at the first sign of trouble?