What follows is precisely the kind of thing I have been talking about recently in my WJEL interview with Superintendent Dr. Nikki Woodson and in my interview with John Strauss for Indiana Public Radio. It comes in the form of a Facebook message from my former student Jesse Moore. He took Latin when I taught at LBJ High School in Austin, Texas, and is now an associate at a law firm there. He offers a beautiful tribute to and raison d’être for Classical learning.
But, what I’m even more grateful for is that general Classical background. I got a lot more in college at UT with my appetite whetted from LBJ—our philosophy classes went heavily into Plato and Aristotle, literature had Homer and Virgil, and I took several Roman and Greek history classes from Palaima and some other great profs, read more Thucydides, Plutarch, Suetonius. Needless to say, being very enthusiastic about these subjects helped me develop the skills being taught. I still use those skills and think about their history—for instance, I was working on a trial recently and brought up Aristotle’s Rhetoric when discussing order of presentation with my boss (and we won.)
But, far more important to me is just knowing about these people and their histories and civilizations. It has made my life more complete and satisfying. I think we all have some questions about where we fit in both individually and as a group, and the Classical world has really helped me in my struggle with some of these questions. I might even prefer the poets to the philosophers—re-reading Catullus and seeing him grapple with love and loss and life and death 2000 years ago, and realizing nothing has changed, is more comforting than the Symposium. I don’t even know if I’d like poetry or have such an appreciation for good music lyrics if I hadn’t been taught scanning….
Your grateful pupil--Jesse