How To Promote The Study Of Greek -- By: Henry Anselm Scomp

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 054:215 (Jul 1897)
Article: How To Promote The Study Of Greek
Author: Henry Anselm Scomp


How To Promote The Study Of Greek

Prof. Henry Anselm Scomp

It requires no great acumen to convince the intelligent observer that the Greek language, as an instrument for general culture as per our college curriculum, is now on trial for its life. For years a great outcry has been raised against it as a “compulsory study” in the course. “It is too difficult”; “Students employ every possible method to evade it”; “They use ‘ponies’ for the authors as well as for the best-known works on Greek Prose Composition”; “Their Greek course is, for many of these students, hardly more than a humbug”; “They graduate knowing little of the language, and nothing of its literature, and lay aside their text-books gladly, and for all time,” etc.

Such are sample objections urged with no small force against the continuing of Greek in the general curriculum. Every teacher of the language has felt their power, and every thoughtful student has weighed the subject—perhaps with many misgivings; for he realizes that much of the opposition is well founded. The percentage of students who “elect no Greek” has increased from year to year, and frankly, on present educational lines, there seems but little prospect of checking this adverse tide. That there will be a small band of philologists, professors, clergy, and other literary men who will continue to prosecute Hellenic studies for professional purposes, or from very love of them, is not doubted; but this number will necessarily be small, as is the case with the number pursuing Sanscrit or He-

brew. As an instrument for general culture, as education now goes, Greek will surely be relegated to the specialists; and the specialist’s field has few attractions for any considerable number of students. To illustrate: How many readers can be found for an exhaustive treatise on iota subscript; on the irregular metres of Euripides; or on Isolates’ use of Γίγνομαι? Such learned works become “antiquarian” almost as soon as they fall from the press: they cannot be popularized.

All true Hellenists look with regret upon the present tendency in education; yet the great body of our teachers of Greek continue to follow in the old grammatical ruts, for lack of a better way. The most perfect language ever spoken by man has been^ by our teaching methods, sublimated, reduced almost to a chain of abstractions. For the life, the glory, the power, the beauty of Greek literature, we have no place. The writer of a treatise on a “specialty” makes that “specialty” his hobby in the class-room. Boys may spend most of their Greek years hunting for Ionic forms. Demosthenes may be studied chiefl...

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