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An Unlikely Scholar

July 9, 2022

Yesterday July 8, 2022, Andrew Van Dam, a columnist for the Washington Post, revealed trends in American higher education that explain some aspects of “progressive” academic “group think.” His report is titled “People from elite backgrounds increasingly dominate academia, data shows.”

Van Dam reports that two thirds of new PhDs have parents with graduate degrees, up from around 20 percent a few decades ago.

“I know the feeling” of being the first member of my family to go to college and to follow that with studies that led to an earned Ph.D. in Government specializing in political philosophy.

I shouldn’t have taken that professional course since my secondary education lacked study in Latin and Greek and when, as a Junior undergraduate, I went to the Latin Department to express interest in learning Latin I was told that I was “too old.”

I was 20.

Undaunted, ten years later, I took leave from my graduate studies at Notre Dame to enter an intensive Latin program at Loyola of Chicago for older men who wanted to become Catholic priests, followed that with the study of Classical Greek at Hunter College and later studied Sanskrit at Columbia.

Oh how it would have been better to study Latin in 8th through the 12th grades but I am a “working class” American and didn’t become interested in college until asked by a classmate in 11th grade “Where are you going to college?”

“What’s college?” I asked.

My family were immigrants from Germany and Turkey, learned to speak English in America and worked as laborers, typists or clerks. My father was an Armenian who became a rug merchant. But even he did not speak English until he attended public school.

How I became a scholar is explained in my recent book, Ennobling Encounters.

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