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I MAGINE that you are a teacher of Roman history and the Latin language, anxious toimpart your enthusiasm for the ancient world - for the elegiacs of Ovid and the odes of Horace, thesinewy economy of Latin grammar as exhibited in the oratory of Cicero, the strategic niceties of thePunic Wars, the generalship of Julius Caesar and the voluptuous excesses of the later emperors.That's a big undertaking and it takes time, concentration, dedication. Yet you find your precioustime continually preyed upon, and your class's attention distracted, by a baying pack of ignoramuses(as a Latin scholar you would know better than to say 'ignorami') who, with strong political andespecially financial support, scurry about tirelessly attempting to persuade your unfortunate pupilsthat the Romans never existed. There never was a Roman Empire. The entire world came intoexistence only just beyond living memory. Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Catalan, Occitan,Romansh: all these languages and their constituent dialects sprang spontaneously and separatelyinto being, and owe nothing to any predecessor such as Latin. Instead of devoting your full attentionto the noble vocation of classical scholar and teacher, you are forced to divert your time and energyto a rearguard defence of the proposition that the Romans existed at all: a defence against anexhibition of ignorant prejudice that would make you weep if you weren't too busy fighting it.If my fantasy of the Latin teacher seems too wayward, here's a more realistic example.Imagine you are a teacher of more recent history, and your lessons on twentieth-century Europe areboycotted, heckled or otherwise disrupted by well-organized, well-financed and politically musculargroups of Holocaust-deniers. Unlike my hypothetical Rome-deniers, Holocaust-deniers really exist.They are vocal, superficially plausible, and adept at seeming learned. They are supported by thepresident of at least one currently powerful state, and they include at least one bishop of the RomanCatholic Church. Imagine that, as a teacher of European history, you are continually faced withbelligerent demands to 'teach the controversy', and to give 'equal time' to the 'alternative theory' thatthe Holocaust never happened but was invented by a bunch of Zionist fabricators. Fashionablyrelativist intellectuals chime in to insist that there is no absolute truth: whether the Holocausthappened is a matter of personal belief; all points of view are equally valid and should be equally'respected'. The plight of many science teachers today is not less dire. When they attempt to expoundthe central and guiding principle of biology; when they honestly place the living world in itshistorical context - which means evolution; when they explore and explain the very nature of lifeitself, they are harried and stymied, hassled and bullied, even threatened with loss of their jobs. Atthe very least their time is wasted at every turn. They are likely to receive menacing letters fromparents, and have to endure the sarcastic smirks and close-folded arms of brainwashed children.They are supplied with state-approved textbooks that have had the word 'evolution' systematicallyexpunged, or bowdlerized into 'change over time'. Once, we were tempted to laugh this kind ofthing off as a peculiarly American phenomenon.