within the meaning of the act

Alison   Fri Mar 17, 2006 12:36 pm GMT
Could someone please expain "within the meaning of the act" in the following?

The old neglect, however, was not of quite the same nature. The modern
idea is that the teaching of grammar is nothing but a conspiracy by
fascist-minded schoolmar'ms to torment their innocent charges. The old
idea was that, /all/ modern languages being essentially barbarous
patois, to regard any of them as possessing such a thing as a grammar
worthy of study were too absurd to be contemplated. (In a similar case,
Dante has to go to some effort in his "De Vulgari Eloquentia" to defend
the mere thesis that rhymed verses in Italian are to be regarded as
"poetry" within the meaning of the act.)

Thank you.