Saturday, February 23, 2008

The times, they aren't a changin'

The following comes to us from "A Professional Debt" by Robert L. Ladd, published in
The Classical Journal, Vol. 30, No. 4. (Jan., 1935), pp. 203-211.

A bit of vocabulary aside this could have been written today.

During the period characterized by the supposed financial suc-
cesses of the twenties, when success was synonymous with the
acquisition of wealth, the subjects of the high-school curriculum
had to justify their position in the schools almost exclusively on
the basis of their practical value in the promotion of this material
end. Many and strange have been the activities of the classroom
to demonstrate the practical value of Latin. For the instructor in-
terested in teaching pupils the language the task has been well-
nigh impossible because of the necessity of making the process
painless, practical, and even delightful. In many cases these ac-
tivities of the classroom have deteriorated into a process of learn-
ing much about Latin and of learning very little Latin. Too often
this process has the same result as in the case of the little tot who
had been ill and was in need of a tonic. The doctor prescribed
quinine. The child was difficult to manage when it became neces-
sary to administer any kind of medicine. The mother seized upon
the happy thought of disguising the quinine by making a pill of it
and placing it in the centre of a luscious cherry. The little girl took
the cherry gleefully and went away eating it. With outstretched
hand she soon returned to her mother, saying, "Mother, I've eaten
the cherry, and here's the seed!" We regret that the essential tonic
of Latin is frequently returned to the teacher untouched, after the
nonessentials have gone the way of the luscious cherry.

Now, once you get past this it's very jarring to read about the threat of child labor laws flooding the classrooms with more students, and the 'problem' of what to do with leisure time now that all classes are seeing a reduction in work hours. Still, that opening is right on.

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