Ah, September.  The enervating heat of August is less, and school starts up again with all the hopefulness and energy of a new academic year.  I still feel the year begins in September.  For those of you with children, and those of you called to profess, here is a bit from Margaret Coit’s 1950 biography John C. Calhoun: American Portrait—for use next time someone complains of his homework load.

Before going to Yale (which Calhoun entered as a junior in 1802), he studied for two years at the “log academy” of his brother-in-law, Dr. Moses Waddell.  The boys lived in cabins, survived on a diet of cornbread and bacon, were roused by a horn at dawn, and studied from sunrise till nine p.m. seven days a week (with debates on Friday nights and some time for hunting on Saturdays).  “[T]hey studied their grammar and syntax, their Vigil and Homer, with intensity,” Coit writes.  “A hundred and fifty memorized lines a day would be the quota for the slower pupils; over a thousand, for the brilliant ones.”

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Katherine Dalton has worked as a magazine editor, freelance feature writer and book editor.  She started in journalism in college, working at The Yale Literary Magazine during most of its controversial few years as a national magazine of opinion based at Yale.  She then worked briefly at Harper's magazine in New York, and more extensively at Chronicles magazine in Illinois, where she was a contributing editor for many years.  She has has written for various publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the University Bookman, and was a contributor to Wendell Berry: Life and Work and Localism in the Mass Age: A Front Porch Republic Manifesto.  She lives in her native Kentucky.


  1. Perhaps if the current crop of erected uffishuls read more Homer and Virgil, we might not be watching the bilge pump sputter and the ship list alarmingly.

  2. This is particularly interesting in light of futurist cults which advocate the enhancement of the human brain via bio-engineering, genetic tinkering, virtual-reality interfaces, cybernetics, etc.

    I mean, the modern man no longer even comes close to trying to tap into the inherent capabilities he actually *has*, yet he pounds the laboratory table demanding more.

    What is being done to children’s minds via public education & the media-entertainment complex is sheer perversity. It is appalling to consider how much precious potential is simply being poured down the toilet.

  3. JD Salyer,
    One of the reasons the assorted nit wit techno-savants will succeed with their attempts at the “Trans-Human”…..when humans are interchangeable components of parts that are much more better than our current ugly and most distressingly mortal forms….. as well as the much trumpeted though singularly idiotic “Singularity” (say this in properly hushed but exultant tones) when the mind and our technological effluvia converge on some happy isle where even billboards are luvly…… is that public education will have finally created the perfect vacuous vessel for such a supremely commodified thing. I am only disappointed that I cannot be around to witness the mechanically blessed event and watch as the entire remaining animal creation rears up and guffaws that the humans they have been running from finally turned their attentions exclusively on themselves.

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