April 01, 2007

Barbarians, paragons, and March and April fools

Just in time for April Fool's Day, one hopes, The Telegraph's education correspondent reported yesterday,
Lessons in Latin and Ancient Greek have been deemed detrimental to the learning of foreign languages in schools.

A secret document sent to Government officials by the Dearing Languages Review, an influential inquiry into language teaching, reveals that Latin and Greek were excluded from the list of languages that schools will be encouraged to study because they are "dead languages" that contribute nothing to "intercultural understanding".

The document adds that "important as they can be, their inclusion on the same footing as modern languages could actually undermine our attempts to build up national capacity in languages".

The revelation that Latin and Greek were intentionally excluded by the review comes only days after news that the Ancient History A-level is to be scrapped by the OCR exam board. The review was ordered by the Government last year in response to a steep decline in the number of pupils studying languages for GCSE.

Boris Johnson, the shadow higher education minister, described the assertion that Latin and Greek could undermine attempts to build up languages as the "most stupid thing I have ever heard".

"I can pick up a newspaper in Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Greece, Brazil and the whole of Latin America and understand the news, basically because I studied Latin," he said."
And from The Telegraph's leader today, "O tempora, o mores!",
As we report today, the teaching of Latin has been condemned by the committee reviewing languages in schools, on the asinine grounds that it could "actually undermine our attempts to build up national capacity in languages". Latin, as everyone except the educationalists on that committee knows, is the foundation of French, Spanish and Italian.

But that was only one of the idiocies emanating from this quarter last week. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers called for the abolition of all testing by schools, and the introduction of lessons in walking.

Verbum sapienti: if the low level of attainment of our school children is a cause for concern, we should be just as worried by their teachers. As their pronouncements last week show, some of them make the barbarians who destroyed the Roman Empire look like paragons of sophisticated civilisation.

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