REVIEWSrnScorched Earthrnby Thomas FlemingrnWho Killed Homer? The Demisernof Classical Education and thernRecovery of Greek Wisdomrnby Victor Davis Hanson and ]ohn HeathrnNew York: The Free Press;rn290 pp., $25.00rnThe great debate over the humanitiesrncurriculum is the one that neverrntook place. What some disgruntledrnacademics call “the traditional curriculum”rnis really the hopeless hodgepodgernthat was cobbled together in the periodrnthat stretches, roughly speaking, from thernend of the Great War to the Vietnam era.rnThe true traditional curriculum (that is,rnthe classical curriculum) had alreadyrnbeen destroyed by the great vandals —rnHarvard’s President Eliot (a mediocrernchemist) and the disciples of JohnrnDewey—and out of the rubble a sterilernand generic humanities curriculum hadrnbeen patched together by well-intentionedrnand desperate men (Hutchins inrnChicago, Meiklejohn at the Universih’rnof Wisconsin). It did not work, it couldrnnot work, and the only people whornmourn its passing are themselves the victimsrnof a dumbed-down system that annuallyrncranks out English Ph.D.’s like sornmany cheap VCRs: they may have thernwiring to show films of Hamlet, but thernonly videos available are of Brian Di Palma’srnlatest or old Doris Day movies.rnAlthough both Thomas Molnar andrnJacques Barzun have had valuable thingsrnto say, the last really good book on therncollapse of American education was AlbertrnJay Nock’s Page Barbour lectures.rnFor their subtide alone, the authors ofrnTo Subscribe…rn1-800-877-5459rnWho Killed Homer? desene our gratitudernfor reopening the one really importantrnquestion in higher education, namely,rnthe indispensability of classical education.rnHanson and Heath begin, appropriatelyrnenough, with the sterilitv of thernclassics profession, with what JacquesrnBarzun once called the “scorched earthrnpolicy” of the American Philological Associationrnthat turned the study of Greekrnand Latin literature and history into a socialrnscience designed, apparendy, to stiflernany serious interest in what the ancientsrnhave to teach us. “W’liy,” they ask,rn”do few professors of Greek and Latinrnteach us that our present Western notionsrnof constitutional government, freernspeech, individual rights, ci’ilian controlrnover the military, separation between religiousrnand political authorit\ middleclassrnegalitarianism, private propertv,rnand free scientific inquirv are both vitalrnto our present existence and derive fromrnthe ancient Greeks?”rnIn the course of their useful and importantrnbook, the authors take up therndeath of Homer (and Greek literature),rnthe decline of classics, and the usefulrnlessons taught by the ancient Greeks.rnThey are merciless on the faddists whornhave reduced the Iliad and Odyssey to arncorpus vile on which they can practicerntheir theories—gay studies, literary^ theory,rnpsychoanalysis, feminism, and thernform-analysis practiced bv more tradifionalrnscholars. If anything, they do notrngo far enough and should have reachedrnback a few years to include all the foolishrn”new criticism” introduced in thern1950’s.rnOn the other hand, proper credit isrnnot given to the contributions made byrnhard-working pedants who mav not engagernin the higher crificism or expatiaternon the glory that was Greece, but whornhave cleaned up ancient texts and elucidatedrnthem with useful commentary,rnwho have wasted their eves poring overrnpapyrus scraps and inscriptions, findingrnuseful information that helps us to makernhistorical sense of ancient masterpiecesrnand, in some cases, actually adding tornour store of literature. Pedants have givenrnus big pieces of Bacchylides and mostrnof what we know of such lyric poets as Alcaeusrnand Stesichorus. It is the pedants.rnby the way, who are most likely (in myrnexperience) to display a genuinely humanernappreciation of ancient literature.rnMy own mentor, Douglas Young, wasrnbest known for his edition of Theognis,rnbut when he was asked what he was qualifiedrnto teach, he answered, “Greek literaturernfrom Homer to Nonnus” (about 12rncenturies), and he was not exaggerating.rnI also recall T.R.S. Broughton, whornhad spent most of his career cataloguingrnthe magistrates of Republican Rome —rn”ancient telephone books” as they werernreferred to dismissively by puny literaryrncritics not fit (in all senses of the word) torncarry his books to the library. Broughtonrnwas a plodding teacher, at least in his oldrnage when I took a class in Tacitus withrnhim, but outside of class he was unfailinglyrnhelpful and curious as a precociousrnchild about any subject from Americanrnplace-names to the Ivrics of W.S.rnGilbert.rnHanson and Heath have, nonetheless,rndrawn up a telling indictment of the profession,rnbut they have also offered a fewrnground rules for its reconstruction andrnsome practical recommendations on thernstudy of Greek literature. Here they are,rnperhaps, less successful. Their accountrnof Sophocles’Anft’gOHe, for example, providesrnmany useful insights into the relevancernof the play for modern students,rnbut their search for useful lessons reducesrnthe play to the sort of propagandarnthat might find its way into the Book ofrnVirtues.rnThe story of the play is qiute simple.rnThe sons of Oedipus quarreled over theirrninheritance, and Polynices was expelled.rnHe returned at the head of an invasionrnforce, and in the course of the battle hernand his brother killed each other. Thernnew ruler, Creon (their maternal uncle),rnforbids the burial of Polynices’ corpse,rnbut the boy’s sister, 7ntigone (engaged tornbe married to Creon’s son), is caught inrnthe act of performing a rihial burial andrnis condemned to death. Creon’s son andrnwife both commit suicide.rnIt is a rich and complex play that combinesrnpolitics with religion and contrastsrnfamily obligation with human presumption.rnHere is the authors’ summary ofrnthe great choral ode on the wonders ofrnman, which addresses some of the play’srncentral themes: “Science, research, andrn28/CHRONICLESrnrnrn