"The neglect of the classics in our educational curriculum has been a loss for our civilization," writes Daniel Walker Howe in the latest issue of Wilson Quarterly. Howe, an emeritus professor of American History at Oxford University, charts the one time dominance and progressive decline of the centrality of Latin and Greek classics in American college curricula. Speaking of the period before the Civil War, he writes that "Dickinson College in Pennsylvania was typical: Freshmen studied Sallust, Horace, and Xenophon. Sophomores absorbed themselves in Cicero, Horace, Xenophon, and Euripides. Juniors took Sophocles, Euripides, Cicero, Juvenal, and Persius. And seniors finished off with Aeschylus, Tacitus, and Terence." the article is illustrated with a picture of Dickinson Classics Professor Herbet Wing, Jr. with students ca. 1945, reproduced below.
In 1946, Dickinson stopped requiring bachelor of arts candidates to take Latin or Greek.
Despite the narrowness of the old style of classical training, and the many momentous changes in American education, Howe argues, the ideals of classical education "transcend the limits of time and space." "While we accord them less authority than Americans did a century and half ago, we still hold the conviction that the ancient classics have enduring worth as sources of instruction and inspiration."