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Sotomayor Had No Access To Classics?

Some snippets of the opening remarks from the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, via the National Public Radio:

Opening Statement: Sen. Patrick Leahy

July 13, 2009

Today, we consider the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Our Constitution assigns just 101 of us the responsibility to act on behalf of all 320 million Americans in considering this important appointment. The President has done his part and made an historic nomination. Now it is up to the Senate to do its part on behalf of the American people.

President Obama often quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s insight that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Each generation of Americans has sought that arc toward justice. We have improved upon the foundation of our Constitution through the Bill of Rights, the Civil War amendments, the 19th Amendment’s expansion of the right to vote to women, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the 26th Amendment’s extension of the right to vote to young people. These actions have marked progress toward our more perfect union. This nomination can be another step along that path.

Judge Sotomayor’s journey to this hearing room is a truly American story. She was raised by her mother, Celina, a nurse, in the South Bronx. Like her mother, Sonia Sotomayor worked hard. She graduated as the valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York. She was a member of just the third class at Princeton University in which women were included. She continued to work hard, including reading classics that had been unavailable to her when she was younger and arranging tutoring to improve her writing

Actually, Ms. Sotomayor was blessed with a very high quality education even before she attended Princeton and Yale. She attended one of the premier high schools in the country, the Catholic-run Cardinal Spellman High School, in the Bronx, New York.

For the record, here is the current requirements for graduation at Cardinal Spellman according to the school’s website:

Cardinal Spellman High School

Requirements for Graduation

  1. For all Cardinal Spellman High School Students
    • Religion 4 years
    • English 4 years
    • Social Studies 4 years
    • Physical Education 4 years
    • Mathematics 3 years
    • Science 3 years
    • Foreign Language 2 years
    • Art/Music 1 year
    • Health ½ year
  2. For a New York State Regents Diploma
    All students must pass the Regents Examinations in English, Global, USHG, a Math and a Science Regents.
    • English 4 units
    • Social Studies 4 units
    • Mathematics 3 units
    • Science 3 units
    • Physical Education 2 units
    • Foreign Language 1 unit*
    • Art/Music 1 unit
    • Health ½ unit
    • Plus Electives

    * All Cardinal Spellman students must take at least 2 years of a Foreign Language.

  3. For an Advanced New York State Regents Diploma
    In addition to the previous Regents requirements, students must also pass the Foreign Language Regents, the Math B Regents, and the Living Environment Regents as well as another Science Regents.
    • English 4 units
    • Social Studies 4 units
    • Mathematics 3 units
    • Science 3 units
    • Foreign Language 3 units
    • Physical Education 2 units
    • Art/Music 1 unit
    • Health ½ unit
    • Plus Electives

    To qualify for a Cardinal Spellman High School diploma, a student must pass all courses taken in Senior Year. A Senior who fails a course must take an equivalent course in a summer school or college. Upon receipt of a transcript indicating that the student has passed the course(s), a diploma will be granted.

We stongly suspect that the requirements for graduation were even more stringent back in 1972, the year Ms. Sotomayor was graduated.

For the record, here is the current required summer reading list for seniors attending Cardinal Spellman:


Class of 2010


Tests will be given on all reading assignments during the first week of classes.


-A Civil Action by Jonathan Haar


-1984 by George Orwell


Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James Loewen, plus assigned chapters from the textbook.


Hardball by Chris Matthews and The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin


Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen


-Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer


Inherit the Wind by Lee and Lawrence




The Color Purple – Alice Walker

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad



The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

Once again, we suspect there has been some falling off.

But if Ms. Sotomayor didn’t read the classics during her high school days, whose fault was that?

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, July 13th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

22 Responses to “Sotomayor Had No Access To Classics?”

  1. beautyofreason says:

    She grew up in the Bronx if I remember correctly. That means she was within a short subway ride of one of the largest public libraries in the world, the New York Public Library. What a joke that she pretends to have been disadvantaged for being raised in an American culture with access to one of the better cities of the world.

  2. “Once again, we suspect there has been some falling off.”

    Well, that explains the popularity of ABC’s ‘The View’.


  3. Petronius says:

    Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” on the Summer reading list! And “1984” by George Orwell! Outstanding! There is some reason for hope for future graduates of Cardinal Spellman H.S.

    Sen. P. Leahy: “She continued to work hard, including reading classics….”

    I wonder exactly which classics she read? A bit difficult, I would imagine, to be a serious student of the classics, and remain a Liberal. Classical studies and mathematics are about the only “safe” departments left in most universities.

    Senator Petronius has a question for the nominee. Here is a list of ten legal classics. Only one has been written since 1947. I would expect a Supreme Court justice to have read most if not all of them:

    1. The Holy Bible, King James Version
    2. Pollock and Maitland, The History of English Law
    3. Maitland, The Constitutional History of England
    4. Blackstone’s Commentaries
    5. H. S. Commager, Documents of American History
    6. A. Beveridge, The Life of John Marshall
    7. Jefferson Davis, Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government
    8. O. W. Holmes, Jr., The Common Law
    9. J. Hall, General Principles of Criminal Law
    10. R. H. Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah

    I would be surprised if Sonia had read even one book on Senator Petronius’ list.

    • bronzeprofessor says:

      “I wonder exactly which classics she read? A bit difficult, I would imagine, to be a serious student of the classics, and remain a Liberal. Classical studies and mathematics are about the only “safe” departments left in most universities.”

      Petronius, I hate to be a stinker, but the truth is, Classics too has fallen! V Davis Hanson presaged as much in “Who Killed Homer” back in the mid 1990s, but since then the liberalization of classical studies has accelerated. Blame Foucault, blame the classicists themselves, blame the dumb “Gladiator” culture of the world at large, but nowadays Classics departments are hotbeds of Marxists, queer studies, gender theory, and fatuous parallels between Rome’s “imperial overreach” and the excesses of Bush America.

      I did a joint Phd/MA in English/Classics but didn’t finish my MA in Classics until 2007, after I’d already been teaching full-time at university for 4 years. I watched the field slowly retire all its conservatives. Today’s classicists aren’t as totally looney leftist as people in Cultural Studies, mind you, but they are all blue-dog Democrats. They came to the conclusion that conservatives were anti-intellectual and only liberals would save them from being downsized academically ….. PSYCH! They got burned.

    • Liberals Demise says:

      Does this mean “Trailer Park Cutie” is NOT one of the classics?

    • pdsand says:

      In the conversation that liberals have been having with themselves for the last 40 years, they have pretty much agreed with themselves that the assumption that only books written by dead white men count as “classics” is racist. You, sirs, are all racists.

    • Petronius says:

      Bronzeprof’r: “nowadays Classics departments are hotbeds of Marxists, queer studies, gender theory….”

      That is a real shame, Bronzeprof’r. Depressing news, it truly saddens me. What is the score with the Latin department? Is there still hope in Latin?

      By the way, kuddos for fighting the good fight on both fronts––university and military. I’m not sure which is tougher. Audentes fortuna juvat.

    • bronzeprofessor says:

      Well to be fair, Classics is at least closer to the center than the looney left that predominates in other departments. You have some Latin teachers who teach Latin without mining antiquity for leftist lessons about life. A lot of them don’t have tenure, though.

      To give you a sense of how bad things are, when I was teaching at a Jesuit college, we were hiring for a Shakespeare position. There were two finalists. Finalist #1 was a gutsy guy with Classics training who knew Latin. Finalist #2 was a feminist gender studies maven who did her dissertation on the history of female actors doing Shakespeare in drag in the 1990s. Finalist #1, it was discovered, had posted some pro-life and pro-traditional-marriage arguments on a website somewhere. The feminists went nuts, caballing furiously to make sure Finalist #2 got the job. Imagine — at a JESUIT COLLEGE — discriminating against someone for being a pro-life Catholic classicist!!! That’s how bad it is.

      One of my colleagues mused to me, in a condescending bovine tone, that I ought not say much because after all, Shakespeare was in his own day resisting the Greek-reading snobs like myself….. There’s some bad logic for you. It’s bad out there, real bad.

      But on a lighter note, I have taught the Satyricon a number of times and students always love it. Especially Trimalchio’s feast, of course.

  4. proreason says:

    She was valedictorian but didn’t have classics available to her.

    Her school didn’t have a library? Every library has classics. EVERY library.

    Leahy is a liar.

    But I’m being redundant.

    • VMAN says:

      “But I’m being redundant.” That is a great one.

    • jobeth says:

      Perhaps she should have dug out the only set of encyclopedias in her childhood neighborhood. They were in HER home!

      Bet they would have had a list of classics she could have read.

  5. catie says:

    You know I don’t know what upsets me more the “current list” or Leahy’s lies. As beauty so succinctly put it, she was very close to one of the world’s great libraries. I’m sure she had a library card.
    Just by way of my own personal experience in Catholic high school, we read “The Heart of Darkness” during my sophomore year and there was no AP at the time I went 78-82-although we did have “honors” but I wasn’t in those classes.

    • bronzeprofessor says:

      Catie, This whole statement by Leahy is so absurd, I don’t think it’s even worth our time trying to reason it out. The notion that someone who went to Princeton and Yale was denied access to the Classics at any time is PREPOSTEROUS. I too am from the Bronx. There are libraries there! She could take the #4 train up about 8 stops if she felt the South Bronx was insufficient for reading material. She also lived close to Lehman College, and not far from Fordham, a huge Jesuit powerhouse. She could have probably gotten library access to those schools too…. But this is all so ridiculous!!!! Her high school had those classics available to her.

      This whole schmalzy, ditzy, “I’m just Sonia from the projects” routine has gotten OUT OF HAND. She grew up in immense privilege by virtue of living in a stable family (even if widowed) in New York City, which gave her access to resources that people in rural areas or smaller cities could never dream of!

      Why doesn’t Steve re-activate that old function from Getdrunkadnvote4mccain where we can signify our feelings with martini glasses or glasses of milk. The Sotomayor hearings are definitely grounds for BIG martinis, because it’s so ridiculous.

    • catie says:

      Bobby, what a great idea to bring back the martini/milk glasses.
      I was thinking the same about her family background. Her mother re-married (not sure when and why she isn’t using his name, well at least during these hearings) and as you stated she had a stable family life.

  6. SailorMon says:

    Liberals Demise: I read “Trailer Park Cutie”…..I thought it was a classic.

  7. SailorMon says:

    Catie: the other day, Rush called Leahy such a lightweight that if he was a plant he’d be one of those dandelion things with the puffball on the top that a breeze can blow away.
    Leahy has certainly proven to be just that with his fluff today. But the whole Democratic defense of Sonia will be fluff. According to the news, she’s been practicing her comebacks to the various questions she’s anticipating during the confirmation hearing. In reality, there is no defense for the very public, very “recorded”, statements she’s made. But she’ll spew some vacuous drivel and nobody will press her, or if they do she’ll simply repeat it again. The libs are very good at swatting away criticism until it just finally dies a natural death and goes away, or the Obama-media moves another story to page one and distracts the dumbed-down public.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      Really doesn’t matter. The hippie-crats are simply giving us a dog and pony show to satisfy some notion that they “met the challenge and won”. Sawed-off-my-ear will become an historical lawn ornament for the party to crow about, regardless of lack of qualification or even DISqualification.

      Blammo says “I won” and he means that to plow his choices through since he sees that that’s how gummint works.

      Like the OJ “trial”, actual evidence and proof matter not.

  8. pdsand says:

    I always love the “you took that quote out of context” defense. And then the context always makes everything much worse.

  9. canary says:

    Some man that was over her, was on Fox, and said when she was a prosecuter she was easy on minorities, because she understood them. But, she was hard on someone that did a terrible crime. So, I guess muslim terrorists will have it easy since it’s their religous belief’s to kill and torture in the name of allah.

    Did anyone hear what exactly, the protestors were yelling out,? They were chewed out, then escorted out by security.?

    It was during Soto hearings, when Al Franken was giving his full of himself speech, this is my 5th day, how he missed Teddy Kennedy not being there, how great Sotomayer was, and all the good past changes to the Constitution.

  10. artboyusa says:

    “I am so great, I am so great, everybody loves me ‘cause I am so great”.

    Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sang happily to himself as he strutted along in the D.C. sunshine. Everything was going so well: the nation’s first blackish president was in the White House, the first ever female Hispanic lesbian judge ( a three-fer!) was about to be installed on the Supreme Court, the banks and the auto industry and who knew what else were all part nationalized, the national debt was spiralling satisfactorily, our illegal wars of colonial occupation were more unpopular than ever and he, Pat Leahy, just a simple country lawyer from Montpellier, was a major player in all these wonderful events. “I am so great…”

    “Hey Pat! Hey Pat!” An urgent cry interrupted the lanky progressive’s solitary reverie. “Hey Pat! Wait up!”

    The backwoods statesman jumped back in alarm as a shining black Lincoln Continental mounted the pavement in front of him and slammed into a mail box. “HEY PAT!”

    Oh no, thought Pat. Not him. “Hello Ted” he smiled through gritted teeth.

    “Hey ole buddy, whazzup?” drooled the bloated Bay Stater (D-MA). “You wanna lift?”

    Pat’s alarmed eyes (or eye, since he’s blind in one of them) took in Ted’s inflamed complexion, his swollen features, his little yellow eyes and his even yellower teeth.

    “You look good, Ted” smiled the Cyclopean Vermonter. “Real good. How’s the health?”

    “Ashk not! “laughed Ted. “Nevah bettuh. I fee-ul great”.

    “And you look great” lied Pat. “Honest. Out for a spin?”

    “Huh? Oh yeah –a shpin. Gotta catch the lasht ferry back …nevah saw the bridge…that’sh my shtory, right?”

    “Sorry, Ted” said Pat. “You kinda lost me there”.

    “Huh? Wha? Is that you…Jack?”

    “No, it’s me – Pat. Look Ted, you haven’t been drinking have you?”

    “Drinking? What’re you shuggesting? You think I’m drunk? Huh? You think I gotta problem? Huh? Huh? You wanna make shomething out of it? Why, if I could still walk I’d shlug you…” the massive car door swung open and Ted slowly rolled out and fell in a heap at Pat’s feet.

    “Ted!” exclaimed Pat. “Are you okay?” He bent over his distressed colleague. “Shpeak – I mean speak, to me”.

    “Pat…oh Pat…” whispered Ted and Leahy saw that his old friend was trembling and that his blazing jowls were streaked with tears. “You gotta lishen to me. I’m going to Hell, Pat…straight to Hell”.

    “No you’re not!” lied Pat again. “Why, a man like you, with all you’ve done…”

    “But that’s why!” exclaimed Ted, grabbing Pat’s arm and holding tight. “I make myshelf shick, Pat. Shick! If you only knew half the shit I’ve pulled…the things I’ve…anyway, I’m gonna burn Pat. I know that. I’m gonna burn forever!”

    “Now look Ted” consoled Pat. “You’re a senior statesman, you’re the Lion of the Senate, you’re…”

    “Gonna burn in Hell!” wailed Ted. “Don’t you end up like me, Pat! You were a good man once…a good man. It’s too late for me but you’ve still gotta chance to save yourshelf!”

    “Well Ted; if broadening federal hate crimes law to include crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability, if moving forward with a nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry to provide a thorough, independent and fair review of the Bush Administration’s many war crimes, if defending Judge Sotomayor from those who have sought to twist her words and her record and to engage in partisan political attacks, if apologizing for the enslavement and racial segregation of African Americans, if making life easier for abortionists, flag burners, union bosses, atheists, terrorists and Fidel Castro will get me sent to Hell, well then, I guess I’ll just have to…”

    “Burn! Burn in Hell!” sobbed Ted. “Oh the sulphur! The bubbling lava! Burn! BURN!”

    Wow, thought Pat. When those lapsed Catholics lapse back they really lapse back.

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