Classics Curbing Youth Violence

Akela

sum
Staff member
I was going through old news stories today and came across an article about Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, campaigning for increase of study of classics as a way to curb youth violence :shock:

Speaking two days after the murder of 15-year-old schoolgirl Arsema Darwit – the 16th teenager to be killed in London this year – Mr Johnson said it was vital that the "root causes" of such crimes were addressed.

As well as tough action by police, youngsters needed a varied academic and physical education.

"I think there's a huge amount we can do in London by promoting the learning of languages including Latin," he said, who studied Classics at Oxford University.

"I would like to see not only that but I would like to see ancient Greek. Latin can help with all languages.
The whole thing is quite strange, don't you think? I love ancient world and everything related to it, but isn't this expecting a bit too much?

He majored in Classics himself, so he wants to see every kid become a little more like himself?

The new Mayor of London also suggested that building more boxing academies could help curb youth violence.
Ancient world and boxing. The ultimate solution to all teenage problems :)
 

Decimvs

Aedilis
Staff member
I don't agree with his armchair theory of the causal mechanisms of behavior.

But, I do agree that more emphasis on classics, as well as providing a healthy outlet for energy and adolescent aggression are likely to help.
 

Cinefactus

Censor
Staff member
I believe that historical statistics show that we are actually living in quite a safe age!

Modern society seems to have developed an attention deficit disorder from television, sms and the like. I am not sure if it will help violence, but studying Classics is good training for learning how to concentrate for long periods.

I would support his initiative!
 

Iohannes Aurum

Technicus Auxiliarius
I see a flaw: gladiator fights are among the most watched sporting events in ancient Rome. What would happen if aggressive teenagers took Classics and learned about gladiators? It would be very likely that they would continue fighting, believing that studying Classics make them better fighters.

Did Boris Johnson read about gladiators in Oxford and realize that gladiator fights are just as violent (or more violent) than on television, films, or video games?

For Classics to be effective at curbing youth violence, I would recommend that there should learn about peace and cooperation (Roman orators enjoyed discussing moral values and some might have found gladiator fighting as excessively violent) and less about war or gladiators.

Here is a quote from the Media Awareness Network in Canada:
Media Awareness Network dixit:
Between 2000 B.C. and 44 A.D., the ancient Egyptians entertained themselves with plays re-enacting the murder of their god Osiris -- and the spectacle, history tells us, led to a number of copycat killings. The ancient Romans were given to lethal spectator sports as well, and in 380 B.C. Saint Augustine lamented that his society was addicted to gladiator games and "drunk with the fascination of bloodshed."
http://media-awareness.ca/english/issues/violence/violence_entertainment.cfm

Boris Johnson should read that quote before gladiator fights become common on the streets of London.
 

Cinefactus

Censor
Staff member
Iohannes Aurum dixit:
Boris Johnson should read that quote before gladiator fights become common on the streets of London.
So you don't think that they would all copy Pliny and start attending poetry readings ;)

Actually during the Middle Ages there were gangs of youths armed with sword and buckler fighting on the streets of London. With the introduction of the rapier, things became much more dangerous, as the wounds were usually fatal.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
Iohannes Aurum dixit:
I see a flaw: gladiator fights are among the most watched sporting events in ancient Rome. What would happen if aggressive teenagers took Classics and learned about gladiators? It would be very likely that they would continue fighting, believing that studying Classics make them better fighters.
that's not very logical in my opinion ... a bit like saying people learning German become Nazis

good teachers of Latin would of course not just present gladiator fights the way they are, but also reflect on them and make an ethical judgement. Roman intellectuals usually tended to critise the Circenses in which both men and beasts died for no apparent reason. Prominent examples were Cicero and Seneca. Here's one example from a Cicero letter ad familiares:

Cic. fam. VII dixit:
quae potest homini esse polito delectatio, cum aut homo imbecillus a valentissima bestia laniatur aut praeclara bestia venabulo transverberatur? quae tamen, si videnda sunt, saepe vidisti, neque nos, qui haec spectavimus, quidquam novi vidimus. Extremus elephantorum dies fuit: in quo admiratio magna vulgi atque turbae, delectatio nulla exstitit; quin etiam misericordia quaedam consecuta est atque opinio eiusmodi, esse quandam illi beluae cum genere humano societatem.
 

Reziac

Member
I see it as a refocusing exercise.

A friend teaches D&D to middle school kids. Who'd think Dungeons & Dragons would encourage good study habits? But as it turns out, to do well in the D&D class (which in the nature of games is somewhat competitive), the kids have to study any related historic periods (to get their characters right); they have to learn basic math (to handle the statistical aspects); they have to learn something about writing (to get into the quests and such); I forget the rest but the upshot was that almost all the kids who take the D&D class start off as losers looking for an easy way out, and wind up as much-improved students, willy-nilly. They discover that they can succeed at this education stuff, and it's not just for geeks. They pull themselves up from being losers.

I can see an immersive classics curriculum accomplishing the same thing, if run by the right people (someone who is a natural leader, that the kids won't try to guff) and designed so the kids have to actually do the work to have the fun.
 
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