Taking the Class out of Classics

The title of this blog post is a quote from my favourite Tory politician, Boris Johnson. Although Boris is known by many as a buffoon he is also a proud lover of Latin and Greek and wants to put Classics back on the National Curriculum.

Many of you will think that Latin and Ancient Greek are useless as they are dead languages. I beg to differ. I learnt Latin from the age of 10 and continued to study it all the way up to and including A-Level. I not only found it useful for learning Romance languages like French and Spanish, but have also found it invaluable throughout my Human Biology degree as the Latin names of organisms are so much easier to remember when one can understand the meanings.

As Nick Gibb said to the Politeia Conference in November, “Latin is so prevalent in our culture, in our political and legal systems; in our religious and spiritual institutions and thinking; in medicine, botany and horticulture; and in our art and architecture. The Roman Empire is around us every day – from the way our towns are laid out to the literature we read.” We cannot escape the influence Latin has had on our culture and language.

In 2010 70% of Latin GCSEs were taken in private schools, where only 7% of pupils are educated.

One of the aims of the coalition government is to narrow the gap in attainment between those of wealthy and poor backgrounds. As Gibb states, “The fact that the opportunity to learn Latin is so rare in the state sector is one of a range of factors that has led to the width of that gap. Spreading these opportunities is part and parcel of closing that attainment gap and helping to create a more equal society.”

A boy in my village at home is learning Latin during lunchtimes at our local comprehensive school and I think more of this should be encouraged. However, I think that Latin and Greek should not merely be extra-curricular activities – they should be part of the National Curriculum so that everyone can have access to the fascinating Classical world.

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