Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | November 30, 2010

Caius Petronius on Education White Paper

From a letter to The Guardian (Bill Gall, The Guardian, Monday 29 November 2010):

On reading Simon Jenkins’s article (Napoleon Gove can dictate its terms but the school curriculum is bogus, 26 November) I was reminded of the following: “We trained very hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we were reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress, while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.” Caius Petronius, 66AD, commenting on the reorganisation of the Roman legions.

Wikiquote claims that the correct quote is

We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. Presumably the plans for our employment were being changed. I was to learn later in life that, perhaps because we are so good at organizing, we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.

Unfortunately Wikiquote does not give a source.

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Responses

  1. It is evidently misattributed. The source is a 1957 piece by Charlton Ogburn in Harper’s Magazine:

    http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/25618.html

    See also this debunking:

    http://www.dtc.umn.edu/~reedsj/petronius.html

  2. @Johan: thanks. I myself was suspicious of excessively modern vocabulary of the translation. If this is a translation form Latn, what is the Latin original?


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