Laying Aside Your Greek and Latin

Thomas Arnold, The Use of the Classics:

Now when it is said, that men in manhood so often throw their Greek and Latin aside, and that this very fact shows the uselessness of their early studies, it is much more true to say that it shows how completely the literature of Greece and Rome would be forgotten, if our system of education did not keep up the knowledge of it. But it by no means shows that system to be useless, unless it followed that when a man laid aside his Greek and Latin books, he forgot also all that he had ever gained from them. This, however, is so far from being the case that even where the results of a classical education are least tangible, and least appreciated even by the individual himself still the mind often retains much of the effect of its early studies in the general liberality of its tastes and comparative comprehensiveness of its views and notions.

All this supposes, indeed, that classical instruction should be sensibly conducted ; it requires that a classical teacher should be fully acquainted with modem history and modern literature, no less than with those of Greece and Rome. What is, or perhaps what used to be, called a mere scholar, cannot possibly communicate to his pupils the main advantages of a classical education. The knowledge of the past is valuable, because without it our knowledge of the present and of the future must be scanty; but if the knowledge of the past be confined wholly to itself instead of being made to bear upon things around us, it be totally isolated from them, and so disguised by vagueness and misapprehension as to appear incapable of illustrating them, then indeed it becomes little better than laborious trifling, and they who declaim against it may be fully forgiven.

Thomas Arnold by Thomas Phillips.jpg

 

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