Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/27

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PREPARATION FOR COLLEGE.

tial part of a university education. Both Greek and Hebrew were introduced later, when the Reformers found the original text more favorable to them than the Latin translations.

Greek and Latin thus introduced into the college course have maintained their prestige unshaken almost to the present time, and, having taken such high rank in the college course, the fitting schools have been compelled to arrange their courses to meet the demands of the colleges; so that till quite recently the curriculum of most secondary schools was composed mainly of three studies, Latin, Greek, and mathematics. An English teacher of classics of the present time, speaking of the head master of the school which he attended as a boy, says: "The doctor was a noble type of the old-fashioned English head master. He had a loathing for all scientific study, was utterly ignorant of modern languages, English literature of the day to him was non-existent, his lectures smacked of the last century with their long modulating periods and pauses Ciceronian. All information, historical, antiquarian, geographical, or philosophic, as connected with the classics, he regarded with contempt; any dunderhead, he considered, might cram that at his leisure; but it pained him to the quick if a senior pupil violated the Porsonian pause or trifled with a subjunctive. 'A word in your ear, doctor,' said an Oxford examiner once to him, 'your captain, yesterday, could not tell me where Elis was.' 'I looked horrified,' said the doctor in repeating the circumstance.' I looked horrified, of course, but on my word I did not know it myself.' From his point of view a boy's chief aim in life was evidently to spend years in studying etymology, syntax, and prosody, and still other years in trying to write Latin verses, a thing which Cicero himself could not have done well."

The classical craze never obtained so strong a foothold in this country as in England, and it might be difficult to find, especially at the present time, any head master in America to whom the above description would apply, and yet I have known some, a composite photograph of whom would show many of the old doctor's prominent characteristics. Dr. Gardner, for many years the head master of the Boston Latin School, one of the largest and best fitting schools in this country, was not a mathematician, and whether or not well versed in modern languages, including English, he never wasted much time in teaching those subjects to the boys. But woe to the boy who did not know his Latin grammar from cover to cover; who could not write his Greek accents as readily as cross his t's in English; who had forgotten one of the irregular verbs; or who could not detect an Ionic or Doric form long before he knew why it was used, or whether or not anybody ever used it except on special occasions for special purposes!