Saturday, 14 March 2015

All Greek To Us

From Boris Johnson to N M Gwynne (although at least Oliver Kamm hates him), Classicists often have a striking disregard for the English language.

But The Guardian today expresses the best of the old Fabian tradition, or even, unwittingly, of the old working-class intellectual tradition.

We are an odd lot, the state-educated middle classes. But there are an awful lot of us. Our sense of dispossession by and under this Government is very profound indeed.

Especially among those of us aged between 35 and 55, who see our own quite clearly inferior contemporaries in and around office. Something more than similar applies across a wide range of economic, social and cultural spheres.

Entirely reasonable and mild-mannered people react particularly badly when the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg start speaking a language that, only two generations ago, they themselves would have been able to use at least as well as Rees-Mogg, who is an historian rather than a Classicist.

No, this has nothing to do with bringing back grammar schools.

Many comprehensives continued to offer Latin, especially, until the late 1980s, when the teachers retired and were not replaced due to the Baker Act, the National Curriculum, and the replacement of O-levels with GCSEs. Thank you, Margaret Thatcher.

This is no more about the loss of the grammar schools than the rise of unpaid internships is. What good would grammar schools be against that?

But their partisans are like the SNP or UKIP, with a single answer to every question. They had no interest in it before their own economic ideology priced them, as parents, out of the commercial schools.

The schools that continue to teach Classics are always going to do so. The only way to remove its very newfound status as an instant class indicator is to restore its teaching in the state sector.

Not everyone would take it. Not everyone takes Art, or Chemistry. But the kind of people who always used to take Classics, would do so again.

From where would the curriculum time be found?

The curriculum time seems to found for any and everything under a vague "PSHE" or "Citizenship" rubric, despite what is now the extreme shortness of the school day, although the holidays are as long as they ever were.

Teach Latin and Greek instead, or at least as well. Somewhere else will always be doing so.

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