In a stunning move, Princeton University dropped a language requirement for students enrolling in its Classics major. No longer will Classics majors be required to learn Greek or Latin, which is confusing because none of its language programs will drop language proficiency requirements in languages such as French.
The university’s director of undergraduate studies and a classics processor, Josh Billings, claimed that Classics majors who do not know Greek or Latin “will make it a more vibrant intellectual community.” This move, according to the department, will create a more diverse atmosphere within the program.
Instead, the department used the announcement to apologize naming a building after Moses Taylor Pyne. As the Powerline Blog elaborated, the statement said, “Our department is housed in a building named after Moses Taylor Pyne, the University benefactor whose family wealth was directly tied to the misery of enslaved laborers on Cuban sugar plantations.”
The statement continued, “This same wealth underwrote the acquisition of the Roman inscriptions that the department owns and that are currently installed on the third floor of Firestone Library. Standing only a few meters from our offices and facing towards Firestone is a statue of John Witherspoon, the University’s slave-owning sixth president and a stalwart anti-abolitionist.” Then the department affirmed, “We condemn and reject in the strongest possible terms the racism that has made our department and our field inhospitable to Black and non-Black scholars of color, and we affirm that Black Lives Matter.”
The move could be related to an attempt to recruit and attract more students to the Classics major, but that rumor is unconfirmed. Instead, it appeared that the move was related to kowtowing to the Black Lives Matter and so-called “anti-racist” activists.
For anyone who studies and speaks a language, it is important to know the specific language in order to have a meaningful discussion on any subject. For example, a language speaker cannot confidently claim that they know the language and culture if they cannot coherently ask for directions to the nearest train station, nearest restroom, or placing an order at a restaurant.
Educators know that without requiring a level of standards, students may not ever achieve literacy, aptitude, or in this case, language understanding or proficiency. Princeton’s move appeared to be more of the virtue-signaling kind than out of pure academic motives.