Michael Lind recently lamented the disappearance of the classics from modern American culture. Now, a fascinating and wide-ranging argument for “classics for the people” – or, more specifically, greater access to ancient Greek studies in British schools:
The Greeks, more even than the Romans, show us how to question received opinion and authority. The earliest myths reveal mankind actively disputing the terms on which the Olympian gods want to rule them, and the philanthropic god Prometheus rebelling against Zeus in order to steal fire – a divine prerogative – and give it to mortal men. Sophocles’ Antigone refuses to accept her tyrannical uncle’s arbitrary edict, draws crucial distinctions between moral decency and contingent legislation, and buries her brother anyway. Aristophanes, in his democratic comedies, subjected politicians who wielded power to satire of eye-watering savagery. Socrates dedicated his life to proving the difference between the truth and received opinion, the unexamined life being, in his view, not worth living. No wonder Hobbes thought that reading Greek and Roman authors should be banned by any self-respecting tyrant, in Leviathan arguing that they foment revolution under the slogan of liberty, instilling in people a habit “of favouring uproars, lawlessly controlling the actions of their sovereigns, and then controlling those controllers”.
Is it time to bring the Greeks back to American schools too? (The Guardian)
“Here’s what I know with an almost religious surety: to be tagged a Catholic novelist is to be tagged a failed novelist.” (TNR)
“Bite-mark evidence” discredited – the expert who promoted it now recommends sticking to DNA. In case you missed it, a similar story from earlier this year about the pseudoscience of arson research – and how it sent a man to jail for life. (Clarion Ledger)