September 23, 2020
High School Curriculum Short-Changes Students on the Classics
(Oakland, CA) American students are getting bombarded with politics. The 1619 Project tells them America, tainted by slavery, was rotten from its taproot. Civil rights icon Robert Woodson offers a 1776 Initiative with a more positive tilt. And President Trump hopes to preempt everything by launching his 1776 Commission charged with promoting patriotic education.
But what if everybody is shortsighted?
This is where a notable trio of researchers, MORGAN HUNTER, WILLIAMSON EVERS, and VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, weigh in. Their newand disturbingreport published today by the Independent Institute, uncovers a far deeper problem: inadequate instruction in the foundation of the humanities and the Greco-Roman civilization that gave birth to them. The consequences of this error, say the authors, could be disastrous.
The deep insights and towering achievements of that civilizationvaluable in their own rightalso once enabled Americans, who were immersed in the classics, to reach beyond partisan differences by drawing on shared knowledge and lessons from the past.
But our citizens can do so no longer. And no surprise, since, as these scholars found, students in California, for instance, encounter the Greeks and Romans briefly in the sixth gradeand never again. Is it any wonder also, ask the authors, that many young people, ignorant of their societys past, lack a careful and balanced understanding of America?
Something needs to be donewhich is why the authors of the report are calling for a 490 B.C. Project.
490 B.C. is the year the Greeks defeated the Persians at Marathon and stopped Greece from being swallowed up by the Persian Empire. Thankfully, as the authors point out, Greco-Roman culture has endured. The accomplishments of Greece and Rome led ultimately to Magna Carta, liberty, and limited government. In that sense, 490 B.C. is linked to the best features of 1776 A.D.
The classical heritage of our civilization should not now be allowed to wither from inattention. In the report, they present some stimulating ideas that could lead the young to renewed cultural engagement with the past. In the midst of our unrest, this report is therefore required reading.
The entire report can be read here.
To interview the authors, contact [email protected], or 510-635-3690
Morgan E. Hunter, Ph.D., is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. She was a Visiting Scholar in the Stanford University Classics Department for the 2019-20 academic year.
Williamson M. Evers, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Educational Excellence at the Independent Institute. Dr. Evers was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development from 2007 to 2009.
Victor Davis Hanson, Ph.D., is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is Professor Emeritus of Classics at California State University, Fresno. His many books include (with John Heath) Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (1998).
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The Independent Institute is a non-profit research and educational organization that promotes the power of independent thinking to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. For more information, visit Independent.org.