Bella Gerens has posted a wonderfully splenetic rant against Ed Balls, the education secretary. Mr. Balls attacked Latin as a ‘useless subject’, presumably as a way to appeal to the Labour left in the battle for supremacy in the party. Mr. Balls’ support for the workers is well known, such as when he claimed Â£27,000 for his second home (money of course collected from some of the lowest paid in society). Bella laments the crassness of Mr. Balls, and muses on why he attacked her subject:
It would be a pointless waste of time to allow you to observe the teaching of such an elegant and complex subject. Not only would you be incapable of understanding the material, much less appreciating it, the superior knowledge of the students would show you up in a Tennessee heartbeat. Could you even begin to grasp the idea of an ablative absolute, or listen with any light of comprehension in your eyes to a discussion of the sexual puns in a poem by Ovid? Students can. Could you find in your shrivelled soul an inclination to laugh at the comedy of Aristophanes or experience a pang of sympathetic horror at the tribulations of Oedipus? Students can.
It is a light-hearted rant in some senses, but Bella highlights the fact that it is dangerous to judge subjects solely on what some perceive to be their immediate utility to the world of work. The skills required to master a subject like Latin (or classics generally) are valuable. And before anyone asks, my Latin is virtually non-existent and I could never master the subject.
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