A PETITION IN FAVOR OF CLASSICAL LANGUAGES IN PORTUGAL
Following the recent reorganization Portuguese school system and the subject groups it offers to students, the teaching of classical languages has been reduced to a residual status in the secondary schools, and has been eliminated in all but a very few of them. It also runs the risk of soon disappearing altogether from the university curriculum.
Financial necessities have limited the offering not only of classical languages, but of foreign languages and literature, which are also in danger at all levels of education. This is in spite of the fact that over the years Portugal has made a major investment of moneys and effort to create an elite cadre of internationally recognized professors and specialists in areas which are an index of development and make up part of the cultural tradition of countries that we would like to equal.
Ignoring the fact that “mathematics and sciences do not form citizens”, as Manuel Damásio reminds us (Expresso, 10/03/2006), politicians occupying positions of responsibility risk depriving Portugal’s younger generations of the possibility of learning about those roots which link our national identity with the wider European identity, and with the values that constitute the origin of the cultural, ethical and civic heritage of the West.
In a recent commentary on our classical inheritance and on George Steiner’s book, The Idea of Europe (JN, 27/04/2006), Nuno Grande, professor and doctor of medicine, takes this same viewpoint: “the recuperation of human rights, of solidarity and fraternity among all peoples, with respect for different cultural identities … are factors in the ennoblement of Humanity, all of which is found in the perception of wisdom, the claim for disinterested knowledge and the creation of beauty.”
These values, which make part of our European identity as has recently been reminded by J. M. Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission (SIC – Notícias, 13/05/2006) are essential to the humanist and classical education, sufficient reason for not eliminating the instruments of this education, the classical languages, from the contemporary curriculum.
The signatories, whose names follow below, have made an appeal to our leaders and to public opinion:
- we ask that the Greco-Latin roots of a noble conception of politics and society, which is both ethical and cast on a human scale, not be abrogated;
- we once again argue for the reestablishment of conditions which would give the younger generations the possibility to study classical languages and cultures at all the levels of their education, from primary and secondary schools to the polytechnical schools and universities.
The Portuguese Association of Classical Studies
The Institute of Classical Studies of the University of Coimbra
The Department of Classical Studies of the University of Lisbon
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