A familiar lament

From the lead article in the February issue of Atlantic Monthly:

Many of you young people of [today] have not heard of Cassandra, for a little Latin is no longer considered essential to your education. This, assuredly, is not your fault. You are innocent victims of a good many haphazard educational experiments. New ideas in pedagogy have run amuck for the last twenty-five years. They were introduced with much flourish of drums; they looked well on paper; they were forthwith put into practice on the hapless young. It has taken nearly a generation to illustrate their results in flesh and blood. Have they justified themselves to you?

The rising generation cannot spell, because it learned to read by the word-method; it is hampered in the use of dictionaries, because it never learned the alphabet; its English is slipshod and commonplace, because it does not know the sources and resources of its own language. Power over words cannot be had without some knowledge of the classics or much knowledge of the English Bible—but both are now quite out of fashion.

[…] I recall serving upon a committee to award prizes for the best essays in a certain competition where the competitors were [college] seniors […]. In despair at the material submitted, the committee was finally forced to select as ‘best’ the essay having the fewest grammatical errors and the smallest number of misspelled words. The one theme which showed traces of thought was positively illiterate in expression.

Did I forget to mention that this article leads off the February 1911 issue of the Atlantic Monthly? I did? My apologies.

(And a tip o’ the hat to Eddie Thomas.)


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