Wednesday, August 21, 2013

No Latin?

As I indulge in my fantasy college curriculum, I suppose something should be said about admissions, or rather, who would be best prepared to benefit from such a curriculum. Since two years of Ancient Greek is required, it would probably be prudent for incoming students to have had at least a couple of years of high school Latin. And that calculus requirement suggests that they had better crack at least a 650 on the SAT-Math. But other than that, it is probably best to keep admissions as simple as possible.
As a psychometrician, I would be perfectly comfortable with using a heavily g-loaded standardized admissions test, particularly the Miller Analogies Test. (Click here for some free practice tests.) Admission letters go to the highest scorers, in descending order, until the incoming class is filled. If that results in a freshman class that is 80% Asian females, so be it.
WIth regard to the high school Latin, this observation by classicist Victor David Hanson seems fitting:

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 Caesar 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’s 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 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.

It is an interesting idea that the reform of the nation's high schools could be furthered by U.S. colleges tightening up their admissions requirements (e.g., requiring four years of Latin and three years of lab science). More about that some other time.

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