Killing off the classics

SHOULD Greek and Latin be taught in state schools? On the positive side, these languages are the substructure of a host of important modern tongues, including English and Spanish - the equivalent of a computer’s operating programme.

On the negative side, it can be argued that in a desperately crowded curriculum, Classical Greek and Latin are low priorities. They are also a declining interest: in 2000, 346 candidates sat Higher Latin, but two years later the numbers had dropped to 257. Why not concentrate scarce resources in providing every pupil with a modern language; and if we think logic and philosophy are important, why not teach them directly? This is a finely balanced argument.

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However, it is in danger of becoming a moot one in the wake of Strathclyde University’s decision to scrap the last available course for students to qualify as classics teachers - and that is decidedly not a good idea. For Scotland, which in pre-Reformation times was one of the centres of Latin scholarship in Europe, to kill off classics teaching by default, and without a proper debate, is both short-sighted and wrong. Strathclyde should delay its decision for a year while the Universities Funding Council debates the matter. Fortune favours the brave - or fortes fortuna juvat, as they say in Latin.