John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Michigan State, how could you even think of it?

An urgent e-mail from my daughter says that the provost at Michigan State University, my alma mater, has proposed eliminating the major in classical studies as an economy move. Alice provided this link to a petition opposing the measure, which I have signed and which I commend to your attention.

When I presented my transcript to my advisor in 1973 to get his approval for my graduation, he looked over it with a practiced eye, looked at it again, and looked up at me and said, “You appear to have gotten a liberal education. How did you do that here?”

“I sneaked around,” I told him.

Whether or not you have studied Latin and Greek, the opportunity to pursue classical studies remains an indispensable component of a liberal education, and it was once thought that universities exist to uphold, at least in theory, the values of a liberal education. That the provost of Michigan State should even propose eliminating the major in classics is reprehensible. If the university should approve this measure, it would be a scandal. Perhaps the provost could then submit a proposal to change the name to Michigan State Trade School.