I learned a great deal about Latin lexicography and the information made available in the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae during my fellowship last year. On Thursday, November 16, I’m leading a practical workshop on the TLL to share some of this knowledge with other academics—how to decode its typography, how to mine the bibliographic information in its Index, and how to understand the organization of an article’s various sections. The workshop, hosted in Butler Library, should be helpful not just for Columbia’s classicists but also for those working with Latin texts in other fields, including Philosophy, History, and Comparative Literature.
To register, send me an e-mail at the address above.
The director of Columbia’s Center for the Core Curriculum, where I currently teach, makes a powerful argument in the Chronicle of Higher Education that robust general education requirements are essential for cultivating a notion of citizenship and “the freedom of intelligent critique” among American undergraduates:
A student should not have to go to law school to study the Constitution, nor to graduate school in political theory in order to understand the principles of liberal democracy that undergird our national compact. The disintegration of the undergraduate curriculum across American higher education reflects the inability, or unwillingness, of university leaders and the faculty to have the sometimes contentious conversations that any serious design of a curriculum requires. The prevailing posture has been a kind of epistemological ecumenicalism that refuses to make commitments to any hierarchy of knowledge — remember that the “post-truth” era began in the university as a “postmodern” rejection of objectivity — or to approach the fundamental question that must guide college curricula: What should all students learn? The outcome of the 2016 election vividly illustrates that the answer to that question is vitally important.
Objections to required core curricula are typically couched in ideological terms: that they inevitably reflect a history of violence and exclude the already marginalized; that they always serve the interests of power; that they are forms of political indoctrination. But more often than not, these objections disguise the real impediments, which have to do with the resistance of the faculty to the hard and often ill-recompensed work of teaching outside of their disciplines, and the fear of college leaders that rigorous requirements will drive away students who approach their college education as the quickest way to a decent job. Both impediments speak to how the values of the marketplace have deformed the institutional structures upon which the health of a free society depends.
Education for citizenship is not — and should never be — education for partisanship. The “great books” of the Western canon do not, as some conservatives would have it, contain a set of timeless truths beyond dispute. Nor are they, as some liberals would claim, an ideologically debased product of “dead white men.” They constitute a tradition of open and unsettled debate without which we condemn ourselves to the provincialism of the present, to confinement within the pieties of the day, and to a sense of moral superiority that has been the enemy of free thought through all of history.