Professor Jay Bregman of the University of Maine in Orono has written an eloquent and strongly argued case for keeping the Latin major in the university system (“Ending Latin major at UMaine strange ‘distinction,’” March 7).

As a teacher of Latin and ancient history for nearly 40 years, I know where Professor Bregman is coming from. Without our classical heritage, our lives would be greatly diminished.

Try to imagine how you would explain thousands of literary, historical and artistic references without a knowledge of Greek and Latin and the ancient mythologies from Greece and Rome. You simply couldn’t do it. Every part of the human body has a Latin name. Try to become a physician without knowing a lot of Latin.

How about becoming a botanist, a biology teacher, a Catholic priest or a lawyer without Latin? Forget it. And then there is the 40 percent to 50 percent of the English language built on Latin. You could learn French, Spanish, Italian or Portuguese, but you would only be studying a variety of Latin.

If you took all the Latin-based words out of any article in this newspaper or your favorite book, you would not be able to comprehend what was left.

Civilizations grow, develop and evolve in many ways. As they do so, they absorb what they have been exposed to. The Romans took in Greek, Germanic and Celtic cultures. The early church brought in Christianity. Judaism and Islam were also absorbed into European cultures.

But the Latin language of the medieval university system united the heritage and transferred it on to our day. Our “Founding Fathers” were fluent in Greek and Latin and knew the history of Greece and Rome.

How could we understand our own government without “constitution,” “senate,” “republic” and “legislature,” to mention only a few?

If we want to remain civilized and stay in touch with the myriad ways in which we are linked into a wide, deep and rich heritage, one that no one would want to live without, we must support the Latin major at Orono, that it might encourage Latin teaching at all levels of education.

Marvin Ouwinga, Ph.D.

Bethel

 

I’m surprised how aggravated I was to read Professor Jay Bregman’s column on the end of UMaine’s Latin major. After all, I’m not much of an academic. It’s been two decades since I took my last Latin course, and more than a few people reminded me that a classics major wasn’t great training for a career in police work.

But it was a great education for police work. Learning how to translate and interpret medieval poetry was, for me, a better education than the Maine Criminal Justice Academy provided in investigating new worlds. It didn’t teach me one specific fact I could use. It taught me how to open my mind, how to better imagine the different way people live.

When I used to respond to 911 calls at the homeless shelter and the teen center, those buildings were as far from my personal life as the planet Mars, as was the language those kids spoke. I’d have been kidding myself if I said it was my language.

And it sure wasn’t my (unimpressive) physical strength that made me unafraid in those buildings.

My confidence came from learning the ways of a world that was thousands of miles and thousands of years away.

That’s what a good education does. For UMaine to dispose of it is a disservice to a lot of college kids.

Andrew Michaelson

Portland

As professors of Latin, Greek and classical humanities at the University of Southern Maine, we applaud Professor Jay Bregman’s defense of classics at Orono and share his concern that there be public access to the study of classics and Latin at the university level in Maine.

The recent jump in the number of students majoring in classics at USM also lends support to his claim that Maine students are increasingly interested in classics.

We wish to correct, however, Bregman’s claim that without Orono’s classics program, “students who cannot afford Colby, Bates and Bowdoin colleges will not be able to study classics (in a Maine public college).”

Apart from the scholarships available to study classics at these private colleges, students can also major in Classics at USM.

Although there is no major simply called a “Latin” major (because we require some ancient Greek as well), we offer Latin instruction at all levels, from elementary to advanced.

Many Portland residents and graduates of USM will remember our predecessors in Classics here, professors Gloria Duclos and Lois Hinckley, and we are proud that USM students (by their enrollments) and USM administrators (by their support) help us keep this tradition, and this educational opportunity, alive.

Along with Professor Bregman, we lament the decisions in Orono that would end its own tradition in classics, and further diminish the faculty there committed to the humanities.

Peter Aicher

Falmouth

Jeannine Uzzi

Scarborough

 

Push for voter ID conceals denial of the right to vote

 

As in most other covert operations designed to limit voter turnout (literacy tests, etc.), the proponents of these nasty little bills requiring production of a government-issued photo ID for otherwise legitimate voters to step into the ballot booth use star-spangled rhetoric and a straight face to proclaim the legitimacy of such schemes or simply shrug and say, “I see nothing to object to.”

The revealing truth is in the effect such measures actually have. Voting analysis actually shows two results: 1) a decrease in overall voter turnout, and 2) the greatest number of otherwise legitimate voters affected are youth, the aged and minorities.

Most importantly, the question of why such measures are needed is never substantiated.

The New York University School of Law published a study on voter fraud in several sharply contested U.S. elections and concluded that “it is about as common as being killed by lightning.”

The report also concluded that the actual effect of requiring photo IDs for voting is to eliminate roughly 10 percent of eligible voters from casting their ballots. Guess which groups got hit hardest?

Maine has no history of any significant voter fraud. For that matter, neither does any other state.

Most reports of fraud are generated in the heat of divisive elections and forgotten later when, after investigation, it is clear that they were unfounded.

These are the most undemocratic of tactics. They seek to disenfranchise Americans from the exercise of the single most fundamental right they have: the right to have a say in their own government.

Cris Edward Johnson

Scarborough