Professor hits back at MPs over Latin jibes

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The Independent Online

The Education Secretary has been criticised by one of Britain's leading classicists for making Latin look like "the favourite subject of the radical right wing".

Cambridge classics professor Mary Beard criticised Michael Gove's "education agenda" in the Times Literary Supplement, saying that "one of [the] worst effects of the Michael Gove education agenda, with its stress on traditional skills, is that it tends to make Latin look as if it is the favourite subject of the radical right wing".

She continued: "At the same time it makes it an easy symbolic target of any Labour parliamentarian looking for a cheap hit against 'syllabus Gove'."

Professor Beard was responding to shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham's remarks on BBC1's Question Time on Thursday, when he criticised Mr Gove's "backward policies" which "brought forward an English baccalaureate that found room for Latin and ancient Hebrew, but not for engineering or ICT".

Professor Beard criticised Mr Burnham for his repeated "pot shot or two at Latin", and invited him to visit Cambridge's Greek and Latin department, an offer which his office refused. She added: "It's all a pretty cheap trick – particularly if (as I suspect) you don't really have much idea what studying Latin is all about."