Study the Latin, I pray you
The value of the new age is based upon the teachings of the old age. Our co-evolution takes place as we learn to fit the lessons of the past into modern life. This bears true even for the United States, which almost always thinks itself exempt from such paradigms.
The founding fathers all knew the classics even if they had little formal education; the classics were so important that they formed the basis of an education at home. A classical education consisted not only of the study of Greek and Latin, but the study of history, politics, geography and mythology taught through the medium of classical language and thought. Thinking people in that age, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, were quite as comfortable in Latin and Greek as they were in English.
Greek was essentially dropped from the college and high-school curriculum in the 1920s; today only nine private high schools teach ancient Greek in the United States. Latin was dropped from 80 percent of high schools during the search for relevance in the 1960s when colleges and universities dropped their language requirements for both admission and graduation.
While scores dropped markedly over 15 years, in 1980 Latin students scored 20 percent higher than the national average for students taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test. There is obviously a correlation between language proficiency in the orderliness and regularity of Latin grammar and mathematical skills, reading comprehension, vocabulary skills, spelling.
All these come naturally to the Latin student not because Latin is essentially difficult (quite the opposite is true) and therefore Latin attracts superior students, but because the language itself encourages precision both in thought and expression.
After watching literacy decline through the 1970s, Latin began to be taught in U.S. elementary schools, usually starting between the fourth and sixth grades. The purpose in this early instruction was not to produce language scholars but to improve basic English language skills. This proved most effective in inner-city schools in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, where school budgets were drastically cut, leaving no alternative programs for the lowest-achieving children. Fifteen to 20 minutes of daily instruction in Latin resulted in five months’ overall academic growth and a full year’s language growth for children in over 100 elementary schools.
The real relevance of Latin to our lives is not higher SAT scores or advanced computer capabilities over even accelerated cultural understanding, but is related more to the quality and beauty in our lives. The real learning comes from seeing ourselves reflected and refracted in the ancients and their way of thinking about and looking at life, to learn from their experience, and to have cultivated the ability to express what we have learned.
Study the Latin, I pray you…
Whole Earth Review, 1987
All of the above has been a shameless plug for our book: The Classical Wizard / Magus Mirabilis in Oz. L. Frank Baum, 1900, translated by C.J. Hinke and George Van Buren, Berkeley & London: Scolar Press 1987, 259 pp.
Unfortunately, The Classical Wizard / Magus Mirabilis in Oz has been allowed to go out of print with all rights reverting to its translators. We would be very grateful in some kind reader might direct us to an enthusiastic publisher to reprint!
Proximo die miles barba viridi mane ad Terriculum venit et dixit,
“Veni mecum, Oz enim te arcessivit.”
Terriculus ergo eum secutus admissus est in Aulam grandem, ubi mulierem amabilissimam, in solio viridi sedentem, vidit. Sericis viridibus vestita erat et in cirris fluentibus viridibus coronam gemmatam gerebat. Ex umeris crescebant alae, resplendentes colore et tam leves ut aura leves ut aura minutissima tacta agitarentur.