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The Academic Case Against Latin

Written by Gary North on October 24, 2015

“But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Peter 2:22).

Up until the early 20th century, entrance into higher education in the Ivy League was Latin-based. By requiring Latin to get into these colleges, the elite screened out common people from access into the elite. This had been going on ever since Harvard was founded in 1636.

Most college-educated men could not speak Latin in 1900 — or 1800 — nor were they expected to. But they were forced to have a reading knowledge it at age 18 if they wanted to enter into the elite. This had been true ever since the late Middle Ages.

It was snobbery. It was also a form of occupational licensure.

The charade ended before World War I. Other entrance requirements were substituted for Latin.

Yet today, Christian homeschool mothers have sided with the long-abandoned charade. They are trying to keep the old flame alive: a dictionary-based, slow reading knowledge of Latin at age 18, never to be used again. They have adopted a hybrid called the classical Christian curriculum. The hard-core curriculum programs require that students learn Latin.


What is the obvious sign of this surrender today? The futile attempt to revive Latin. Why force a child to master Latin rather than New Testament Greek? Greek will enable him to read the New Testament in the original — an obvious benefit. But what is the benefit of Latin? Except for an historian of the ancient or medieval eras — for whom there will be no paying employment — Latin is peripheral. Yet it is seen as the mark of true learning.

Latin was the universal language of the Western Church, i.e., Roman Catholicism and early Protestantism. But that learning was deeply compromised with Renaissance humanism. At best, Latin will enable a tiny handful of highly skilled, highly motivated, and poorly paid Christian scholars to read fragments of the Latin Church fathers.

Parents should abandon the futile boast: “My child is receiving a classical education, just like the good old days.” The good old days produced the bad new days, step by step. The assumption of intellectual neutrality is the Church’s great enemy. Latin education was the primary agency used to spread this lie.

I see home school mothers who cannot read Latin, who have no intention of reading Latin, who are utterly uninterested in anything written only in Latin, buying Latin grammars to inflict on their hapless children. Why? Because somebody they trusted told them that “Latin is basic to a well-rounded education.” To which I reply: “Latin was basic to the initiation process of pagan and/or deeply compromised academics to gain control over the training of each generation of Christian leaders in England and America.”

Latin was a wedge used to separate Christian children from their parents. In the same way that the sex education fanatics today devise ways to keep parents from finding out what teachers are really teaching the children, so was Latin for six or seven centuries. To open the doors of ecclesiastical office and government patronage to their children, Christian parents had to surrender him to the Latin-based curriculum, a curriculum that rested squarely on the autonomy of man. The child was initiated into classical humanism by way of Latin.

What is nothing short of astounding is that there are dedicated Christians today who insist on doing this to their children. They insist on reviving the tool of their ancient enemies in the name of traditional education. But traditional education was Satan’s own tool for capturing the souls of Christians as well as their inheritance. Satan’s agents abandoned that tool only late in the nineteenth century, when it became clear that mass education was going to make the traditional Latin school obsolete as an initiation process for the elite. At that point, the humanists substituted the modern curriculum, based on Darwin, in which Latin plays no role. Latin has become a lost tool of learning. Let’s keep it that way!

Is there a role for Latin? Only historical. If there were a self-conscious effort on the part of dozens of Christian schools to create a cooperative program for translating the 217 volumes of J. P. Migne’s collection of the Latin Church Fathers, I would approve. Until schools adopt this project, it is foolish to indulge in the waste of time that a Latin curriculum involves.

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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