Disappearance of Classics in education

Hard on the heels of the  “Ad hoc Latin club has ‘cultappeal” and the “Latin at Bilborough College” success stories comes this awful reminder of what we, as guardians of the Classical tradition, and the next generation of would-be Classics teachers are up against.

If this young man doesn’t have the opportunity to train as a Classics Teacher it will be a great loss.  writes Shona Harrison, with regard to this letter from Lee Baker,  from the TES dated 30th August 2013

It is with great sadness that I write with regard to the situation of Classics and classical education in Scotland. I am a student at the University of Glasgow, living in Lanark, studying Classics and English literature. It was always my intention, after completing my degree, to continue in education and become a Classics teacher. Having been a pupil at Lanark Grammar School, I was privileged to see the great benefits of Classics teaching and education at its finest under the guidance of some excellent teachers.

However, the situation for training Classics teachers in Scotland is currently non-existent. This is a great loss to Scottish children as Classics education is fast becoming a discipline for the private sector. Some independent schools already employ people without any formal teaching qualifications as Classics teachers, as there is no supply from the teacher training institutes.

This cannot surely be condoned by the Scottish government, when there are people wanting to be trained in this field. It is not because of a decline in interest from students that Classics has disappeared from the state sector, as most schools that still offer it have high presentation numbers (“Ad hoc Latin club has ‘cult’ appeal”, 23 August). Where is freedom of choice and equal opportunity for the children of Scotland? The University of Glasgow was the last place in Scotland where a Classics PGDE was delivered, and it seems as though it has just vanished from the offered curriculum without due cause.

With Latin being one of Scotland’s heritage languages and the rich tradition of Classical learning and influences in the Scottish culture, it seems unthinkable that there is no provision for teaching children the key foundations of our past, when so much time, money and publicity is spent on the benefits of the Gaelic medium. Latin provides an equally beneficial, if not greater, learning environment, as it allows us to recognise and understand not only our own culture and heritage, but also our place in the international European community.


3 Responses

  1. Scottish people may want to consider that if Scotland were to become independent, it would need to forge diplomatic ties with the Vatican, whose official language is Latin. In the medieval period, the Papacy was in favour of Scottish independence. Historians such as Alexander Broadie, John Watts and Fr. William Russell have shown that John Duns Scotus, the most important philosopher and theologian to come from Scotland, and the British Isles in general, supported Scottish independence at the time of Robert the Bruce. He wrote in Latin, and his work is rather difficult to understand. For the vast majority of his texts, there are still no standard Latin editions let alone translations into modern languages.

    However, you are mistaken to play off Latin against Gaelic in the way that you do. Gaelic is probably just as old as Latin. Latin and Gaelic were used by the same people in the period when the earliest kings of a united Scotland were Gaelic speakers. Latin was the international professional language, whereas Gaelic was the national one.

  2. Gaelic has never been the national language of Scotland. Each area of Scotland has its own particular dialect and there is the Scots Language, Doric, etc all unique and distinct. I don’t think that the letter writer was ” playing off ” Gaelic against Latin.
    On a happy note, Lee Baker is now at Cambridge University trying to be a Classics Teacher and will be returning to teach Classics in Scotland.
    It is a national disgrace that Scotland has turned its back on Classics.

  3. I of course meant ” training” to be a Classics Teacher, not trying. Don’t you hate it when technology decides what you are trying to write !

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