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French Bring Back Teaching of Latin and Ancient Greek in Schools

Latin and Ancient Greek
Odysseus tied to the mast to be able to withstand the sirens’ call; scene from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ Painted on black vessel, c. 470 BC. Public Domain

The French government has announced plans to boost the teaching of Latin and Ancient Greek in schools as part of a new initiative.

On Tuesday, the education ministers of France, Italy, Greece and Cyprus met at the historic French High School Louis-le-Grand in Paris to sign a charter to promote the Latin and Ancient Greek languages.

The conference was entitled “Europe and Ancient Languages: First European Conference on the Languages and Cultures of Antiquity.”

The education ministers signed a charter promising the creation of a “global and international strategy for the promotion and development of Latin and ancient Greek”.

Earlier, France’s education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said that Latin and Ancient Greek would be introduced in vocational schools where sixth graders study for jobs in places such as restaurants, car repair shops, beauty salons and others.

Blanquer said that students will advance culturally if they study classic authors such as Sophocles.

Supporters of Blanquer and the study of the classics argue that the accord of the four countries is the reply to woke culture.

Removal of classics from US universities

The move of the French education ministry comes in juxtaposition to U.S. universities removing so-called “dead” languages from the curriculum.

Blanquer told Le Point that Latin and Ancient Greek are threatened by the wokeism trend that comes from the United States.

The targeting of the classics is prominent in the U.S. now, with Princeton University announcing that students of classics will no longer need to study Latin and Ancient Greek, the two subjects that are the core pillars of the discipline.

Dan-el Padilla Peralta, an associate professor of classics at Princeton, is a proponent of the ban, claiming that Ancient Greek and Roman cultures had been encouraging slavery, colonialism, and white supremacy for 2,000 years.

Thereby, according to Peralta, writings in Latin and Ancient Greek have been used over the years to promote those practices.

In a similar move, Howard University, one of America’s most well-known black institutions, has dissolved its classics department, dispersing its tenured faculty to other departments.

The removal of Classics from curricula has sparked a debate in U.S. academia, while the overall issue of wokeism has become volatile.

This comes after a BBC poll among 100 international authors, academics, journalists, and critics voted Homer’s Odyssey as the most influential story to have shaped the entire world.

Blanquer told Le Point that, “To stick categories and a contemporary world view on writings dating back two millennia is an abysmal absurdity.”

Study of Latin and Ancient Greek would reinforce the EU ideals

The French minister believes that Latin and ancient Greek are a common bond for European nations, and that this common linguistic fund would help spread common European values.

The education ministers of France, Italy, Greece and Cyprus agreed that Latin and Ancient Greek are the living heritage, the common cornerstone, of European and Mediterranean culture and the vital force underlying our contemporary languages.

The four countries agreed to undertake the task to strengthen their cooperation with regard to Latin and Ancient Greek languages, encouraging and developing bilateral and multilateral collaborations.

They also intend to promote exchanges and mobility of students and teachers, in order to create a global dynamic regarding new audiences and projects open to all citizens and all forms of education.


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