‘What’s that great big book on the table?’ she asked.
‘That? Oh, that’s my Greek dictionary.’
‘Your what?’ she cried.
‘It’s all right. It won’t bite you.’
‘Are you learning Greek?’
‘I thought I’d like to.’
He was looking at her with a smile in his eyes and she smiled back at him.
‘Don’t you think you might tell me what you’ve been up to all the time you’ve been in Paris?’
‘I’ve been reading a good deal. Eight or ten hours a day. I’ve attended lectures at the Sorbonne. I think I’ve read everything that’s important in French literature and I can read Latin, at least Latin prose, almost as easily as I can read French. Of course Greek’s morе difficult. But I have a very good teacher. Until you came here I used to go to him three evenings a week.’
‘And what is that going to lead to?’
‘The acquisition of knowledge,’ he smiled.
‘It doesn’t sound very practical.’
‘Perhaps it isn’t and on the other hand perhaps it is. But it’s enormous fun. You can’t imagine what a thrill it is to read the Odyssey in the original. It makes you feel as if you had only to get on tiptoe and stretch out your hands to touch the stars.’
“Men have wasted their precious years trying to extract education from an ignorant past whose chief province is to teach us, not what to adopt, but what to avoid. Men have sent their sons to colleges to waste their energies upon obtaining a knowledge of such languages as Greek and Latin, which are of no more practical use to them than Choctaw….They have been crammed with the details of petty and insignificant skirmishes between savages, and taught to exalt a band of ruffians into heroes; and we have called them “educated.” They have been “educated” as if they were destined for life upon some other planet than this. They have in no sense received instruction. On the contrary, what they have obtained has served to imbue them with false ideas and to give them a distaste for practical life.”
Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), The Empire of Business (New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1902), pp. 79-80. Via LAUDATOR TEMPORIS ACTI.)
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