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Joseph Bottum on Latin

From First Things:

There’s a superior command of English granted by the study of Latin, but even to make that argument is to admit that Latin requires some practical result. For that matter, there’s plenty to learn from the ancient world’s experience of politics, social life, and art, and yet, again, that’s not, in itself, a reason to demand that students study Latin. Translations will do as well, if that’s all we want, and the real argument for Latin runs deeper than mere practicality.

In fact, Latin was a measure of education, not a portion that could be added or dropped. Admittedly a somewhat arbitrary measure, though it kept us tied to the continuity of Western civilization. But without some such measure, the entire idea of education becomes vulnerable to the skeptic’s relativistic question of “Who’s to say?” Who’s to say what’s right or wrong? Who’s to say what’s true or false? Who’s to say what knowledge we should share?

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