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Friday, 31 January, 2003, 12:53 GMT
Clarke criticised over classics
Ancient ruin
Is learning for its own sake facing ruin?
The Education Secretary has been accused of "pig ignorance and blind prejudice" after questioning the value of studying classics at university.

Charles Clarke said education for its own sake was "a bit dodgy" and that students "need a relationship with the workplace".

But Peter Jones, a writer for The Spectator who used to teach classics at Newcastle University, told Radio 4's Today programme: "This is an attack not just on classics but on anyone who studies arts subjects.

Extraordinary

"These subjects deal with what is important and personal and individual.

"Why does Clarke have it in for classics? It's only another arts subject.

"A calm, reasoned and balanced judgement would put it down to pig ignorance and blind prejudice.

"It's quite extraordinary that Charles Clarke, who wants to get 50% of people into education, has come out against learning for learning's sake."

More than 30 classics courses, usually consisting of Latin, ancient Greek and ancient history, are offered by universities around the UK.

Charles Clarke
Clarke: not a Latin lover

Mr Clarke told the Sunday Times: "One of the main purposes of university is to encourage people to think. But education for its own sake is a bit dodgy, too.

"The idea that you can learn about the world sitting in your study just reading books is not quite right."

Mr Clarke advocated pupils studying philosophy, his own subject at university, but said he was "less occupied by classics".

Classics has often been dismissed as an elitist subject, as most state school pupils do not get a chance to study either Latin or ancient Greek.

Last year, only 0.2% of total GCSEs were in Latin, with the number of ancient Greek papers sat not even registering 0.1 of a per cent.

In Greek, 54% of pupils gained an A* grade and 24.8% an A grade. In Latin, the figures were 30.6% and 31.5%.

But Mr Jones said: "How on earth can a subject be elitist? Only people are elitist.

"Education in classics is a preparation for living, living well and making a living."

See also:

18 Nov 02 | England
24 Sep 02 | Entertainment
13 Aug 02 | UK
11 Jan 01 | Europe
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