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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

It’s not Greek to me

Condemned by an Athenian jury for disrespecting the gods and corrupting youth, Socrates talks to his students before drinking hemlock.

Student protests have disrupted Reed College’s Humanities 110 classes, “intimidated lecturers and bullied other students both online and off,” writes Michelle Nijhuis in The Atlantic. Now first-year students in the required class are demanding a chance to learn.

Humanities 110 enables students to understand and challenge the past, writes Nijhuis, a Reed alum.

For decades, Reed has discussed whether anyone should read the ancient Greeks, she writes.

No matter where we were born or what we look like or what we believe, the narrative of Western civilization is part of the cultural water we swim in. . . . I learned in Hum 110 that to respect a text is to keep experimenting with it, and to keep testing its relevance. Some of these works have already survived thousands of years of scrutiny; let’s see if they can take a few millennia more.

Western civilization doesn’t belong to white males, Nijhuis concludes. “What I really learned in Hum 110 is that the ancient Greeks—and the rest of our collective cultural ancestries, for that matter—are mine. They’re mine and yours and theirs and ours, to honor with our sharpest spears.”

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