Earnest Classicists and sentimental conservatives have combined in decrying President Conant's proposed elimination of the Latin requirement for the Bachelor of Arts degree. The first of these groups advances several excellent arguments to prove the value of a knowledge of Latin; the second propounds sonorous platitudes concerning "the badge of culture" and "the heritage of the ages." Since sentimentalists, concerned always with preserving some golden age that has had its existence only in their imaginations, are impervious to logic, supporters of Mr. Conant's proposal must turn their attention to the sincere students of the Classics.
The arguments of this fraternity imply that the present requirement is in fact a significant one. This presupposition, however, is not justified. Since three years of secondary school Latin or its equivalent in college Latin or in Greek is required for the A.B. degree, those who have not studied the Classics to this extent simply content themselves with an S.B., regardless of their fields of concentration. A regulation that produces such terminological monsters as the Bachelor of Science in Fine Arts or Music can hardly be justified without recourse to emotionalism. More serious than this perversion is the fact that the true student of science is not distinguished from his brother whose only claim to that name is his ignorance of ancient languages.
The Classicist, then, should distinguish between encouraging the study of Latin and Greek and supporting a regulation that serves simply to destroy the meaning of the Harvard science degree. Subjects that retain significance and vitality in relation to modern life should be able to attract students through their intrinsic value, without requiring the artificial support of requirements. If the present rules did force uninterested students to gain a perfunctory knowledge of a classical language, their value would be doubtful; since they do not accomplish even this, they are indefensible.