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Harvard’s 1869 entrance test

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[Snapshot of one part of the exam - Greek grammar]Do have a look or skim through this scanned document. These are a subset of questions from Harvard’s 1869 entrance exam.
Sections covered in this entrance exam :
–          Translate Into Latin
–          Latin Grammar
–          Greek Grammar
–          Greek Composition
–          History and Geography
–          Arithmetic
–          Logararithms and Trigonometry
–          Algebra
–          Plane Geometry

Would be curious to know what your first impressions were..

Alison Cowan, who’s article cited this document, commented :

“Harvard’s literature from the 1869-70 school year noted that incoming freshmen were expected to know how to write in Latin and Greek “with the accents” and needed to demonstrate knowledge of “the whole of Virgil,” Caesar’s Commentaries, and Felton’s Greek Reader or comparable texts.”

Fifteen years ago, when I was struggling to find a good place to pursue a bachelors in physics, a friend’s father suggested I apply to the US. It was during this period of college search that I learnt about universities that had a rigorous 2-year core curriculum that comprised the Classical languages (Greek, Latin), Civilization studies, Political ideals, History & the natural sciences. One thing that struck me in particular about Harvard’s old entrance test was that

The classical languages of Greek and Latin are revered, respected for the linkage they provide to the innermost ideals and fountains of western thought and philosophy.

γνῶθι σεαυτόν | Know thyself

γνῶθι σεαυτόν, Know thyself, “is still and always the supreme command for humanity 1, whether uttered in Greek or in Upanishadic verse. It occupies a central place in what is considered a ‘good’ college education in the West. Could the same not be instituted in India?

Why just language (re: revival of Sanskrit and its powerfully creative regional tongues) – why can’t the ancient Indian classics and poetic works – works of supreme grandeur and world vision occupy a similar place in our undergraduate education? The call for ‘modernity’ is not antithetical to the study and appreciation of classical literatures.

If Homer and Shakespeare can be studied, why not Valmiki?

Valmiki, who’s work “has been an agent of almost incalculable power in the moulding of the cultural mind of India” 2  or Vyasa? Or better still, the supreme poet of our classical age, Kalidasa ?

So, at the national level, why not study Kalidasa, Vyasa & Valmiki.
And regionally / at the State level, there’s no good reason to ignore the works of :

the religio-ethical and political poems of Ramdas in Maharashtra

the gnomic poetry, the greatest in plan, conception and force of execution
     ever written in this kind, of the Tamil saint, Tiruvalluvar.

The “accomplished lyrical form” of Vidyapati or Chandidas of Bengal, who’s poetry invokes the most “poignant and exquisite love lyrics in any tongue 3

And these are just a few..Maybe at some point, we’ll have a few universities of non-technical repute, truly universal centers of learning – a new age Nalanda, perhaps? A place that can set for itself the undying ideal that both East and West have known:

At last know thyself, from vain existence cease.” 4

 

References

1 Writings on Vedanta / Brahman in the individual Self, book : “Kena and other Upanishads“, Sri Aurobindo
2, 3 all lines in blue from the 3rd & 4th chapters on Indian Literature, in the book : “The Foundations of Indian Culture“, Sri Aurobindo
4 the epic poem “Savitri” by Sri Aurobindo

 

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