Don’t Neglect Those Dead Languages

Benjamin Rush,

A Plan for the Establishment of Public Schools and the Diffusion of Knowledge in Pennsylvania:

“I do not wish the LEARNED OR DEAD LAN­GUAGES, as they are commonly called, to be reduced below their present just rank in the universities of Europe, especially as I consider an acquaintance with them as the best foun­dation for a correct and extensive knowledge of the language of our country. Too much pains cannot be taken to teach our youth to read and write our American language with propriety and elegance. The study of the Greek language constituted a material part of the literature of the Athenians, hence the sublimity, purity and immortality of so many of their writings. The advantages of a perfect knowledge of our language to young men intended for the professions of law, physic or divinity are too obvious to be mentioned, but in a state which boasts of the first commercial city in America, I wish to see it cultivated by young men, who are intended for the compting house, for many such, I hope, will be educated in our col­leges. The time is past when an academical education was thought to be unnecessary to qualify a young man for merchandize. I conceive no profession is capable of receiv­ing more embellishments from it.

Connected with the study of our own lan­guage is the study of ELOQUENCE. It is well known how great a part it constituted of the Roman education. It is the first ac­complishment in a republic, and often sets the whole machine of government in motion. Let our youth, therefore, be instructed in this art. We do not extol it too highly when we attribute as much to the power of eloquence as to the sword in bringing about the American revolution.”

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