Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shocking entrance requirements

In a biography of James Madison, Ralph Ketcham quotes the entrance requirements of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) in 1769. Among other things, incoming freshmen had to be able to "render Virgil and Tully's orations into English and to turn English into true and grammatical Latin, and to be so well acquainted with the Greek, as to render any part of the Four Evangelists [Gospels] in that language into Latin or English ..." Again, these were among the entrance requirements for undergraduate work.

I find this incredible. I did not begin to learn Greek until I entered a Masters program in theology and even then I didn't learn it well enough to render any part of the gospels into English without the aid of a Greek dictionary. And translating any part of the gospels from Greek into Latin? I could not begin to do that after graduating from a Masters program in theology. Yet such skill was the expected general base of knowledge for 17 or 18 year-olds entering college in the latter half of the 1700's.

I watched too much TV growing up.

I really did. Now, on top of TVs, we have video games, MP3 players and cell phones to help turn our brains into mush. Most of us need to study more and entertain ourselves with mindless garbage less. Maybe we need to entertain ourselves more with truly enlightening knowledge.

We have become accustomed to junk food for the brain as we have become accustomed to junk food for our bodies. There is a lot of talk about the "obesity epidemic" in America. I think our brains are as out of shape as our bodies.

"Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge" (Proverbs 23:12, TNIV).

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