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The Devil Knows Latin: Why America Needs the Classical Tradition
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The Devil Knows Latin: Why America Needs the Classical Tradition

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  110 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
What They're Saying about this book ... (Kopff's) clean and lively style throughout constitutes a very cogent arguing point for teaching the classical languages again: would that we all wrote so well. - Booklist Reading E. Christian Kopff's The Devil Knows Latin is like hearing a series of liberal arts lectures from a brilliant, entertaining and deliberately controversial ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published November 1st 2000 by Isi Books (first published January 1st 1999)
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It's tremendously learned, and mostly well-written, and I want to agree with his message because I think a classics-heavy education is a great idea, but I disagree strongly with almost everything he says. His grand scheme seems to be teaching children Latin rather than social studies, and completely ignoring anything that isn't from what he considers the Western Tradition -- he goes as far as to say that studying Indian and Japanese culture while studying Western culture is "intellectually incoh ...more
David Withun
Oct 13, 2014 David Withun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
E. Christian Kopff goes a step further than most advocates of classical education today in his insistence upon a return to an authentic classical education that not only focuses on the "great books" and the great ideas they contain but that includes as its centerpiece a thorough study of classical languages and the classics in their original languages. Borrowing, perhaps, though without directly citing, the old motto of the Catholic schools in the United States that "language saves faith," Kopff ...more
In his introduction, University of Colorado Classics Professor Kopff, relates the source of his book's title. The late Fr. Ronald Knox, when asked to perform a baptism in the vernacular, responded: "The baby does not understand English and the Devil knows Latin."

The professor recommends the study of classical literature in their original language (likely Latin or Greek). He convinced me by page 26, that we should be learning Latin and that it was by no means a dead language. He tells us, "...of
Kevin Fuller
Nov 21, 2013 Kevin Fuller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
at first, it seems rather offputting kopff attempts to write on the topic of the classical tradition while doing so for a postmodern attention span. in the beginning of the book, he touches on several topics: the need for the classical tradition in America, a very brief survey of modern economics, and the depravity of modern liberalism, all without delving too deep into his subjects he discusses. however, in the chapter where margaret fuller arrives in Rome and finds her true Self and Home there ...more
Gregg Wingo
Dec 19, 2014 Gregg Wingo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Kopff's "The Devil Knows Latin" is a typical example of classical apologia derived from MacIntyre's "After Virtue". The author not only argues MacIntyre's argument for the rejection of the Enlightenment, a return to classical philosophy, and revision of primary and secondary education, he also promotes the elimination of the Great Books curriculum in favor of classical language studies. Both authors ignore the benefits of the scientific method and experiment in favor of pure logic and commun ...more
Rachel Terry
Jul 22, 2009 Rachel Terry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teaching
The premise of this book is that America is in trouble if we don't get back to our cultural heritage, especially our connections with Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. It's more like a collection of essays on a theme rather than a cohesive book. I ended up skimming a few sections, like the one about The Godfather. Kopff makes some good points, though, and he places our current political and cultural positions into a wide historical context. I already had strong feelings about some of his points-- ...more
Catherine Gillespie
I think I was biased against this book because it’s based on an illogical and silly anecdote. The story goes that a priest was asked to baptize a baby in the vernacular. The priest said he would not, because “the baby doesn’t know English, but the Devil knows Latin.” That’s not funny; it’s inane. I get that the point is that learning Latin will train the student to be a better thinker, but I don’t really know how learning Latin would keep the Devil at bay. It didn’t work out that well for the Ro ...more
John Nelson
Aug 29, 2016 John Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chris Kopff is a classics professor at the University of Colorado with a reputation as one of the best and most accessible teachers on campus. In this book, he argues that the classical tradition of studying the best Greece and Rome have to offer, together with the Western Tradition as it has developed since the Hellenic Age, all in the works' original languages, is critical to understanding and critiquing our society. He also argues that only by studying and understanding these works is true cr ...more
Thomas Achord
We should teach Greek and Latin in order to pass on the morality, religion, tradition, civilization, and culture of the Western heritage. That's the thrust of this book. Many ills plague the modern world, and for Kopff, teaching the Greek and Latin languages aid in anchoring us in the timeless cultures, thoughts, truths, and world of our past. Languages carry the stories, thoughts, ideas, truths, battles, hurts, loves, and civilizations of their origin, thus shaping the worlds after them. To for ...more
Jul 08, 2015 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I am an advocate of his advice on teaching the Great Books and learning Latin, Greek, and mathematics -- he is too dogmatic (and yes, prejudice) to consider any other beliefs than that of conservatism which ultimately invoked my vacillate rating of the book.

I only read this book about halfway through and then was too agitated to pursue reading since the author redundantly libeled anyone else who was not of the same political belief.

Decent book; too partisan to conservatism.
Jenna Nichols
As a political science graduate whose focus was largely classical in nature, I'm always looking for defenses of the classical tradition, and while this text fits the bill I found it ultimately unsatisfying. However, if I were more conservative I believe the book would have better resonated with me.
May 27, 2015 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
Several extended quotes from this book warranted entry into my personal reading log... at certain points early in this book, I think the author very clearly and accurately diagnosed aspects of our culture.
Maybe it's just me, but the author also lost me in a few places of the book, sometimes when the author referenced someone or something unfamiliar to me. Sometimes I would read his points of view and think to myself that the author sees and understands truly and plainly, but sometimes I caught
Jesse Winslow
I have mixed feelings about this book. The first and last chapters relate to the title, as in why we need to understand the classical tradition to further Western Civilization. Mainly he is talking about studying Greek and Latin and changing the rhetoric for our elementary schools. The middle of the book is unrelated schlock. It is a combination of tirades about liberalism, different artists, reviews of films about farmers and Clint Eastwood. And how if we don't return to traditional Christian e ...more
Mar 26, 2013 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since I was born fascinated with yesteryears it is no surprise I found a classicist living inside me with a lifelong curiosity about Greece and Rome. Since I grew up in an education system largely devoid of the classics I encountered later in life, I came away thinking I was short-changed when I attempted to tackle the more complex literature of previous centuries. This book argues the importance of a classical education and claims that cutting ourselves away from the thoughts and reasoning from ...more
Jun 21, 2012 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not exactly what I was expecting. He seemed to ramble on about people I know nothing about, only to make a point that more-or-less went over my head. Maybe the historical figures mentioned in the book would be familiar to someone who was already taught in the classical tradition, but not to me. Of course, someone taught in the classical tradition would not need to read this book in the first place, so I'd have to say this author missed his audience by a long shot. I was expecting to be shown, th ...more
Oct 05, 2014 Logan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting. Case for the classical tradition and basically explains why the word 'tradition' isn't a bad word.
Jan 24, 2011 Heather rated it liked it
An eclectic collection of essays which make for quick and thought-provoking reading on their own. Together they demand more mental effort to see how they make a unified case for "Why America Needs the Classical Tradition." Dr. Kopff certainly succeeds, however, in opening the eyes of the reader to the deep roots of classicism that permeate American culture, and to the fact that true "classical" education is not begun until Latin and Greek are the basis for a curriculum.
Feb 17, 2016 Debbie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for a paper I was researching. The middle section seems to drag and he seems to spend too much time telling us what is wrong with liberal scholars and their desire to do away with tradition. I wanted more about the classical tradition. I was hoping for more of a how-to book and a lot of it is more of a how-not-to book.
Brendan Steinhauser
An excellent read. Kopff makes the argument why we need the classical tradition. But the way he does it is through very interesting writing, and an examination of our culture, both popular and elite. The Devil Knows Latin is a good read all the way around, especially the chapters on American films. I loved the section on the Godfather more than any other.
This book was simply a collection of articles from Kopff. If the book title was "A Collection of Articles by E. Christian Kopff" then I could've enjoyed it more. The book was disjointed and not very cohesive. Each individual article was interesting and at times thought-provoking.
Aug 08, 2014 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed all the examples that were cited throughout this book. The author is obviously very intelligent! However, he seems to be a little harsh towards the American education system. I don't disagree with his views, but it could have been articulated in a less abrasive way!
Read this book! Brilliantly exposition of the absolute need for the primacy of Classics in American education. I tend to ignore Kopff's occasional forays into religious musings, but even in them he is brilliant.
Feb 27, 2011 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was at the same time convicting, entertaining, and incredibly inspiring. I would highly recommend it to anyone currently educating their children (or themselves for that matter).
A pretty interesting read. It would have been much better with some heavy editing and a more accurate subtitle (I'd suggest "Random Semi-Related Essays by E. Christian Kopff").
I read about 3/4 of this book, but it is due back at the library and I must confess a profound ignorance of much of the subject matter, so I just gave up.
May 01, 2008 TheRose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone! Especially homeschoolers, parents, educators, students, scholars
Shelves: education
EXCELLENT! A must read for anyone with intelligence.
Douglas Wilson
Jan 29, 2009 Douglas Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
Really good.
Jun 22, 2009 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-of-2009
Lynna marked it as to-read
Sep 27, 2016
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Dr. E. Christian Kopff is Associate Professor of Classics, Director of the Center for Western Civilization, and Associate Director of the Honors Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he has taught since 1973. He is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome and has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the CU Committee on Research. Dr. Kopff also is a ...more
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“A nation lives by its myths and heroes. Many societies have survived defeat and invasion, even political and economic collapse. None has survived the corruption of its picture of itself. High and popular art are not in competition here. Both may help citizens decide what they are and what they admire. In our age, however, high art has given up speaking to the body of its fellow citizens. It devotes itself to technical displays that can appeal only to other technicians.” 0 likes
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