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To the Editor of the Harvard Graduates' Magazine: Sir, - I am delighted with the able article in the September number of the Graduates' Magazine against the use of Latin on diplomas and Commencement programmes. It is exactly in the line with what I have urged by word and pen for more than thirty years.
My efforts were specially directed to a change in printing the Triennial (now Quinquennial) Catalogue from Latin to English, and I had several argumentative conversations with Mr. Sibley, who edited that interesting publication for so many years. But no impression could be made upon him, he was so firmly imbedded in the rut he had been always accustomed to.
Some of the entries in the Cata
logue were quite ridiculous. The Postmaster-General was put down as "Rerum pub. Foed. Rei Vered. Curator Summus," which might be literally translated as Great Curator of fast horse things. The Attorney-General of the United States was called " Attornatus," a word never applied in Latin to a lawyer, whose proper designation was "Advocatus." He was not even styled, as was the Postmaster-General, summus, although there are many Attorneys of the United States (District
Attorneys) and only one AttorneyGeneral.
After Mr. Sibley's death, the editorship of the Catalogue passed into other hands, and pure English was substituted for corrupt Latin, the Quinquennial of 1890 being the first catalogue ever issued in the modern vernacular.
But from this change degrees were specially excepted for some reason which I never could understand. In England they are expressed in the English language. The catalogue of graduates of Oxford has long been so printed, and I think one never sees in that country the use of S. T. D. (Doctor of Sacred Theology), but always D. D. (Doctor of Divinity), and M. A. (Master of Arts) is universal instead of A. M. (the Latin form).
A few years ago a distinguished clergyman of Massachusetts, now deceased, published an article under his own name with the addition of both D. D. and S. T. D. Upon his attention being called to the fact that they both meant the same, one in English and the other in Latin, he strenuously controverted the statement, and wrote a letter defending his position, saying that he had both degrees from different colleges, and knew they were not alike. Had he looked at Webster's Dictionary, he would have found Doctor of Divinity put down as the English for S. T. D. Subsequently when he had time and took the trouble to compare his two diplomas, he was obliged to acknowledge that each conferred upon him the degree of “Sacrae Theologiae Doctor."
I hope the agitation will continue until diplomas and Commencement programmes are in the language of the living and not of the dead.
WILLIAM A. RICHARDSON, '43.
To the Editor of the Harvard Graduates' Magazine: Sir, I was greatly pleased with "From a Graduate's Window" in the September Magazine. I do not know who wrote the article, but I greatly admire his courage. The article was full of solid truth and common-sense. It appears to be assumed that every one can understand and read Latin; a most absurd assumption. A diploma is a certificate to the general public to show that the institution has educated and examined the holder, and thus informs the public that he is prepared to practice medicine or law. Now is there any one who can say that it is not absurd to make out a certificate in Latin, when nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand for whose benefit it is made out cannot read a word of it? Not only can the general public not read it, but the average college graduate cannot, after he has been out of college five years. Some of our institutions are slowly adopting English as the diploma language. Syracuse University uses it at least for her diplomas in science.
There are two reasons why Latin is retained as the diploma language. One is because it was once used and was used many years. This is the same reason that helped Latin and Greek to hold full sway in our colleges to the exclusion of English, history, modern languages, and science. The worshipers of Latin and Greek have made a continual warfare against all advancement.
The other reason why Latin is retained as the diploma language is because it looks mysterious and learned. But few can read it, and therefore it is supposed that the people will respect it and bow down before it and its holder. Now, if the diploma were
in Greek, Hebrew, or Sanskrit, not quite so many could read it, and it would look more mysterious and perhaps command still more respect.
I feel sure that within a few years practical common-sense will so overcome the worship of that which is old, that all institutions in the United States will use English diplomas. With this will come the English order in the degree abbreviations. Then we shall see at Harvard, not S. B., S. M., S. D., A. B., A. M., etc., B. S., M. S., D. S., B. A., M. A.
Latin is seldom used except upon special occasions which the institution wishes to make occasions of great dignity and grandeur. I hope that it may soon be seen that this is absurd. Why is not English good enough? Why talk in a language that few of your hearers can understand? The writer of "From a Graduate's Window" writes that even the students who are about to receive their diplomas cannot understand the President's Latin, "and hesitate and fail to come forward at the sonorous 'accedant.'"
The Graduates' Magazine, in speaking of the Commencement, says: “It was observed that several of the recipients of honorary degrees did not stand, as is customary, while the President addressed them." Probably they did not understand him, did not know that he was addressing them. Harvard confers many honorary degrees upon persons who do not pretend to have any knowledge of Latin, and probably many of those who took a classical course at Harvard have forgotten about all the Latin they ever knew by the time they are considered worthy of an honorary degree.
FLAVEL S. THOMAS, m '74.
BOARD OF OVERSEERS.
REPORT OF VISITING COMMITTEES.
Composition and Rhetoric. In the last report of the Committee on Composition and Rhetoric, submitted now three years ago, attention was called to the singular and most unhappy divergence found to exist between theory and practice in one most important branch of education preparatory for college. So far as writing the mother tongue is concerned, thing all admit not to be wholly disregarded in what is known as the higher education, — the theory, elaborately expounded and generally accepted as an established article in orthodox educational faith, long has been that the proper way to learn to write English is to translate orally Greek and Latin. In this way, it is argued, and, if not alone in this way, yet indisputably better in this than in any other way, can command of a vocabulary, flexibility, and knowledge of construction, in short, a terse elegance of pure English expression be acquired. And, accordingly, it is found on examination that the programmes of the better class of preparatory schools set forth that in these institutions, in all cases of translating Greek or Latin into English, a "free, original and idiomatic rendering" is insisted upon.
which the programmes announced it was the pride as well as the practice of the preparatory schools to insist.
The result of their inquiries was not inspiriting. Indeed, it was so distinctly the reverse of inspiriting that the Committee, in place of merely stating their conclusions, which would naturally have been challenged on the ground of exaggeration, took the unusual course of submitting as part of their report a large body of evidence in the form of original examination papers, as well as compositions, all printed literatim, punctuatim et verbatim, and a large part of them reproduced in facsimile.
Those papers spoke for themselves; discreditable to the young men, averaging nineteen years of age, who prepared them, they revealed a condition of affairs, combined with methods of instruction in the preparatory schools, the reverse of satisfactory. Nor was the state of affairs thus revealed denied.
On the contrary, commenting upon that 1893 report, Prof. W. W. Goodwin,' speaking with indisputable authority, remarked: "Many good people who read the Committee's report will believe that our mother tongue is singled out for neglect and contempt by the preparatory schools ; and some will think that the neglect of English is justified by the high standard of scholarship in Latin, Greek, and Mathematics which (as they suppose) the college exacts of its candidates for admission. Nothing can be farther from the truth than both of these ideas. . . . A similar test applied to any other department would disclose a state of things in the lower ranks of scholarship which would be proportionally disreputable. . . . It
Discouraged at what seemed the lamentably low average of the English exercises submitted to them as the work of the younger college classes, the members of the Committee, in preparing their report of three years ago, turned to the examination books in which Greek and Latin were rendered into the native speech. They hoped to find in them extracts from the classic masterpieces reproduced in that "free, original and idiomatic rendering" upon Magazine, January, 1893, vol. i, p. 190.
1 Prof. W. W. Goodwin in Harvard Graduates'
cannot be doubted that a similar depth and allowing it all the weight to which
of ignorance of Geometry, Algebra, Physics, or History might easily be disclosed."
The Committee on Composition and Rhetoric has, of course, nothing to do with the Departments of Geometry, Algebra, Physics, or History; but, assuming that the condition of affairs in those departments, so far as our preparatory education is concerned, is as described by Professor Goodwin, and further that neither the College nor the preparatory schools themselves, but the entity conveniently known as "the system" is responsible therefor, the question naturally presents itself whether anything, and, if anything, what can be done to remedy such a condition of affairs.
That the condition of affairs, so far as the written rendering of Greek and Latin into English is concerned, should admit from any quarter of aggressive, or even earnest defense, would seem, in face of the evidence, most improbable. It has, indeed, been suggested, in a somewhat deprecatory spirit, that things may not be quite so bad as the examination papers would seem to indicate; inasmuch as, when the scholars who wrote those papers sat down to express themselves for ordinary purposes of life, it would be found that they naturally threw off the evil influences of their training, and, it might even perhaps be hoped, would express themselves nearly as well as they would have done had they not been subjected to that training. In other words, the examination papers, so far as the rendering of the classic tongues into English was concerned, were mere educational antics incident to admission to college, and not to be taken seriously.
it is entitled, it yet remains that, under the existing system, the examination papers indicate unmistakably that a very large portion of the time of the preparatory school course is consumed in exercises which, in result, so far as good English composition is at issue, seems to obscure at least in the mind of the student the fundamental principles that every sentence consists of a subject and a predicate, and that clearness in the expression of thought is of the essence of good writing. Beyond this elementary conclusion it does not to your Committee seem necessary at present to go; but they again adduce in this, as in their former report, a body of original evidence showing that the conclusion has not been arrived at unadvisedly. The following are some of the examination papers in Advanced Latin taken at random from a mass of such papers by candidates for admission to the College, submitted at the last (1894) entrance examination.1
It will be observed that all of the above papers were pronounced satisfactory so far as the admission of the candidate to College was concerned.2 The showing would be much worse had a due proportion of the papers of those who failed to pass the examination been included. As it is, the papers differ in no essential respect from those given in the previous (1893) report of this Committee, or from those subsequently printed in the Harvard Graduates' Magazine for January, 1893. The same inferences must be drawn from them. As stated by Professor Goodwin, these inferences point
1 The Committee print sixteen specimens, which are omitted here from lack of space. - ED. 2 The lowest mark given among the sixteen
Accepting this plea in extenuation, specimens is C minus. — ED.
to "a state of things in the lower ranks of scholarship" which is "disreput able," and a "depth of ignorance and carelessness," so far as elementary English is concerned, which is "one of the many results of the deplorable condition of our lower education, for which neither the College nor the preparatory schools are directly responsible, though the consequences and disgrace fall largely upon both." Professor Goodwin further adds: “There is no conceivable justification for using the revenues of Harvard College, or the time and strength of her instructors, in the vain attempt to enlighten the Egyptian darkness in which no small portion of our undergraduates are sitting. The College must do something to redeem herself from disgrace, and to put the disgrace where it belongs; but she must no longer spend time, strength, and money on the hopeless task which she has recently undertaken."
These it will be noticed are the conclusions of a Professor, and a very eminent Professor, of the College. Expressed with a directness of language which your Committee would hardly have ventured to use, they set forth with clearness an inside view of the situation. The paper from which these extracts have been taken appeared over two years ago, immediately after the report of this Committee was published. If in consequence of that report, or of Professor Goodwin's paper upon it, any steps in the direction of a reform of the "system" have been taken, they have not reached the ears of your Committee, nor are the results thereof conspicuously apparent in the examination papers since submitted.
While such a very unsatisfactory condition of affairs is seen to exist in
primary education, it seems scarcely profitable for the Committee to pursue its investigations further and into the more advanced departments. When, again to quote from Professor Goodwin, "the underpinning on which we propose to build our higher education is weak and unsteady,” — when on the highest authority this is admitted to be the case, it appears to the members of your Committee that the best possible service they can render is to call repeated attention to the facts until adequate measures of reform are initiated and their results become apparent.
Those measures of reform are not for this Committee to indicate. The members of the Committee are not specialists in educational matters, nor do they profess to be familiar with results produced in other countries and through different methods. If, also, as Professor Goodwin asserts, the difficulty in the present case is one for which neither the College nor the preparatory schools are responsible, but is inherent in "the system," it is apparent that the work of reform will prove a considerable one. None the less it is also apparent that the College is now wasting its time, strength, and resources in an impossible attempt "to enlighten Egyptian darkness," and this state of affairs at least should not be allowed to continue. That it may not continue it must be shown that it continues to exist; even though evidence of the fact, to be conclusive, may involve, as in the present case, a wearisome reiteration.
This report is general in character. The Committee has not given and, indeed, does not know the names of any of the students whose papers have been published, or those of the schools at which they were prepared. In their