College 200 years ago was for the few, the erudite


Few will question that college has changed dramatically over the past two centuries. Today, post-secondary education is often geared toward preparing an individual for employment, where 200 years ago the goal was to provide a classical education.

In the early 19th century, very few people went to college, but it would appear that those who did were extremely well educated.

Consider this description, taken from The Life and Times of C.G. Memminger (1893), a biography of the Confederacy’s Secretary of the Treasury, of the knowledge necessary to gain admittance to South Carolina College (today’s University of South Carolina) in 1819:

“A candidate must be able to sustain a satisfactory examination upon Arithmetic and Elementary Algebra and English Grammar; upon Cornelius Nepos, Caesar, Sallust, and the whole of Virgil’s Aeneid in Latin; and in Greek upon the Gospels of Sts. John and Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Greek Grammar.”

And that was just to get into the school!

The description goes on to add that “The studies to be pursued in the Freshman year are Cicero’s Orations and Odes of Horace in Latin, Xenophon’s Cyropaedia and Memorabilia in Greek, Adam’s Roman Antiquities, Vulgar and Decimal Fractions, the Equations and Extractions of Roots, English Grammar and Rhetoric.”

My first thought is one would be hard pressed to find a college student today proficient in the above in their mother tongue, never mind in Latin and Greek.

Some of the names listed above are familiar, others not so much.

Cornelius Nepos was a Roman biographer whose simple writing style made his passages a standard choice for translation on Latin exams.

Gaius Sallustius Crispus, often known simply as Sullust, was a Roman historian and politician whose works include The Conspiracy of Catiline.

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USC study provides the answers wanted

Last week, yet another publicly funded study was unveiled in Columbia, this one by the University of South Carolina on business and employment.

The story that appeared in The State, like the study itself, left one with more questions than answers.

For instance, there was no indication of what the cost of the study was or who paid for it.

For that information, you’d have to turn to the article written by my colleague at The Nerve, Eric Ward. Ward reported Tuesday that the study cost $55,000 and that the partners in the study included the S.C. Department of Commerce, New Carolina and the CTC Public Benefit Corporation.

Nearly three-fourths of the $55,000 came from public sources, Ward reported.

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You just can’t pretty up Innovista