May 15, 2009

veni, vidi, exii (?)

When I wrote my dissertation in English linguistics, the regulations of the Graduate School stated explicitly that it could be written in Latin. We also had to document that we had studied Latin for at least 5 years. But at least our diplomas were not in Latin. Others are, even at universities that do not require any knowledge of Latin at all. What's the point?

CONGRATULATIONS. You are graduating this month with a Baccalaureatus Scientiae in Compertis ad Salutem Pertinentibus Administrandis. It sounds impressive, but what does it have to do with your degree in health information management? Almost no one knows, and that’s why the Latin diploma needs to go.

Latin is a beautiful language and a relief from the incessant novelty and informality of the modern age. But when it’s used on diplomas, the effect is to obfuscate, not edify; its function is to overawe, not delight. The goal of education is the creation and transmission of knowledge — not the creation and transmission of prestige. Why, then, celebrate that education with a document that prizes grandiosity over communication?

Read the whole piece, written by a classics professor, here.

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