by, Alex Turock, Wyndcroft Latin Teacher
It is the question I face most as a Latin teacher and while it deserves an answer I think it is important to question the question itself. Why ask, “why Latin?” If the goal of the ever curious learner is to find out everything there is to be learned in this world, why not Latin?
Many people ask the question with a preconceived answer. The most common of those answers are that it helps on the SATs or builds a large vocabulary. While these answers are true (we derive 60% of English words from Latin, and 90% of English words consisting of more than two syllables come from Latin) the real reason for studying Latin goes much deeper than that. At the Wyndcroft School, Latin provides a demand for curious, critical, and independent thinking. Most importantly, the reason anyone started learning Latin was not as a learning exercise at all, but rather to read those authors that wrote the most important documents in history.
The goal of introductory Latin at the Wyndcroft School is to establish the fundamental grammar and reading skills that allow students to reach the level in which they can read Latin written by actual Roman writers. In 8th grade students tackle Pliny’s letter about the eruption of Vesuvius. This provides the base for those who wish to continue their studies in high school. There they will be able to read the works of Vergil, Ovid, Caesar, Cicero, etc. A close understanding of these works, which cannot be achieved by reading them in translation, is the reason to learn Latin.
Lastly, it is the fact that Latin encompasses all typical school subjects which drives students at the Wyndcroft School. Quotes can be found in Latin from Galileo about science, Cicero about politics, Ovid about literature, Caesar about mathematics, the list goes on and on. The answer to the question, “Why Latin?” is that through Latin we study our world, its culture, and its many wonders. Of course, the grammar and vocabulary benefits are great byproducts of that study, but the understanding of our world through the words of the ancients will always be the primary objective of a good Latin classroom.
Many more people have answered this question and you can find links to those answers below as well as a list of people you might be surprised to know have a background in Latin.
Classical Academic Press - https://classicalacademicpress.com/wp-content/uplo...
Australian Schools Brought Back Greek and Latin – and Are Seeing Amazing Results! - http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/australian...
Plato for Plumbers - http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/...
People who have a background in Greek and Roman Classics
- J.K. Rowling - Author of Harry Potter
- C.S. Lewis - Author of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
- Chris Martin - Lead singer in Coldplay
- Charles Geschke - Adobe Systems (photoshop)
- Teller - of Penn and Teller
- Ted Turner - Founder of CNN
- Vince Lombardi - Football coach
- W.E.B. DuBois - Co-founder NAACP
- James Baker, former U.S. Secretary of State
Just to name a few.