Dr. James Patrick, “Cicero in School: Moral Formation in 19th Century America” (MP3 Download)


Run Time: 56 minutes

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Standardized testing has obscured the old standards of admission into the academy in America, where Harvard’s former standard required the translation of Greek and the Latin of Cicero for admission. Dr. Patrick begins his lecture with Winston Churchill’s famous lament that the modern world has lost the knowledge of the “two civilizations” of Rome and Greece through the decline of the old education based in the classical languages. Even the rural South in the United States boasted this tradition up until the late 19th century, and it produced America’s greatest statesmen from John Adams to Sam Houston.

Dr. Patrick notes that this older system of education instilled an honorable principle in its pupils and urged them to pursue their duties. Cicero’s works form a model of this educational heritage, in which the rising generation is trained to inherit rather than innovate and to perceive private and public duties. Our speaker concludes that the antebellum United States had more in common with Cicero’s Italy than not, but the study of Cicero in our own day counteracts the modern provincialism characteristic of our age.

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