Does every child need a classical education?
Films, TV programmes and popular books about Greek and Roman history are undergoing a revival. A book about Socrates is a best seller. Almost 16,000 pupils studies GCSE Classical Civilisation last year. Latin is in the EBacc and Toby Young will ensure that all children in his West London Free School take Latin. Government is backing the revival and schools minister Nick Gibb answers the critics with a glib: “Are you saying working class children can’t do Latin?”
Does all this mean that we are on the verge of a second renaissance? Or has the true spirit of a classical education gone? And is there more to a classical education than learning Latin? Or can we rest easy now that some schools are not only offering Latin but offering a GCSE in Classical Civilisation? Or does resting easy mean, as in Homer’s Odyssey, that we have just put wax in our ears to avoid the Sirens of relevance? After all, many educationalists continue to express doubts about the relevance of classics. And isn’t it more important to learn science and modern subjects - especially ICT - in the 21st century? And what does the research evidence say?
Professor Dennis Hayes will defend a classical education for all, as a taster for his forthcoming session on classics at the Institute of Ideas Academy.