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America is often thought to be similar to the Roman Empire in many different ways, including in their far-reaching influence and patterns of societal development. The Roman Empire cannot boast to having as many academic innovators as their Greek predecessors. This is surprising considering the Greeks even had their own Dark Ages, where they lapsed into a sort of post-literate world without a written language after the Dorian invasion around 1200 BC. Why then did the Greeks produce so many notable academic pioneers?
While the Roman culture was very much a collectivist culture, the Greeks were champions of individualism. Nowhere is this more evident than in their naming structures.
Roman names had three parts: a praenomen (child name), a nomen (family name) and a cognomen (nickname). There were only about 10 praenomen in the entire Roman world, so as a result they were abbreviated with one letter. The nomen was a family name, passed down throughout generations. "Julius" for example, is the nomen of Julius Caesar (whose full name is Gaius Julius Caesar, or G. Julius Caesar). The cognomen, or nickname, was generally given to one person because of a feat or physical feature and was then passed down to his children and other descendants. "Brutus" ("brute" or "dullard") is a great example of a cognomen, given to Lucius Junius because he apparently feigned stupidity to avoid his uncle Tarquin's wrath. Females took the feminine form of their family name and were differentiated by words which would indicate which number child she was ("Julia Tertia" would have been Caesar's third daughter). In complete contrast, Greek names were individual to each person and passed down only on occasion.
It would stand to reason then, that individualizing education is the road to a more successful system, but that's common sense, right? It would stand to reason that we have to redirect the focus of education from comparing different students' standardized test scores to seeing how many innovators come from each system.
The question then is the biggest one facing educators, parents and society today: "How?"
The Oxford Observer
Sierra Company, Class of 2016