Letter to the Telegraph: The classics still provide pupils with a challenge

The Telegraph, 21/03/05, Philip Canning, Head of Classics, at HMC member school Eastbourne College writes about classics.

SIR – Harry Mount laments the loss of the classics from the state system (Comment, March 20) while attacking what he perceives as the dumbing down of Greek and Latin within schools and exams.

These days, many schools need to teach Greek and Latin as a sort of “buy one get one free” opportunity, with less time allotted to them than for other subjects.

The Latin GCSE stands alongside the most rigorous, so Mr Mount’s criticism of the curriculum should perhaps be levelled at general trends in education and examinations, rather than at classics alone.

Grammar is still taught in classics lessons, as is prose composition, even if the emphasis is different. It seems unhelpful to hark back to a past age to which we will not return – akin to the Romans looking back to the golden age of the republic.

Philip Canning
Head of Classics, Eastbourne College
East Sussex

Read the letter online © The Telegraph