“Sound and Wise Reasons Why All Modern High School Students Should Learn the Grammatical Basics of Latin Before They Enter University or College”
Kevin D. Powers, BA (UNB, Classics), MA (Dalhousie, Classics)
HEADMASTER of THE MONCTON LATIN ACADEMY
As someone who struggled academically in grade school, I can happily testify that learning Latin in university was and remains the single greatest academic aid for my cumulative 4.0 GPA (‘A’ average) when I graduated with a BA in Classics at the University of New Brunswick in 2003 and with an MA in Classics at Dalhousie University in 2006. How is this possible you may be asking yourself? How could a dead language that is not officially being spoken by any race or country anywhere in the modern world be of any use either practically in everyday life or academically in any educational curriculum? Also, how did learning Latin account for my vastly improved academic performance? Let me explain how and why Latin had such an impact on my personal academic performance and how it can have such an impact on raising every student’s academic performance, including your child.
Latin did indeed help me succeed in all my subjects at university. Unfortunately for many students, there has been a serious and steady decline in their academic performance with grave and long lasting consequences since Latin was removed from the public high school system in Canada in the 1960’s. In short, the removal of Latin from the Canadian public school curriculum has stripped our children of the education that they all deserve in order to be higher academic achievers. There are some very concrete reasons why a too great number of students here in Canada—especially in New Brunswick where I reside, cannot read, write, or spell properly and at the level at which they should—as generations could not so long ago. In the end, I want to hand you, the parent, an effective and age-long proven tool which is one of the best methods both for helping your child achieve a higher academic performance and for solving the educational crisis in our country. That academic savior is and forever will remain unequivocally and indisputably the Latin language. Let me turn to a short history of how and when I began my Latin studies.
In September of 1999, I was about to turn 29 in November and I began my first course at university part time while working at a Clock repair shop in Fredericton NB. At that time, my reasons for learning Greek were of a personal ‘religious’ nature—a nature to which I no longer espouse. Nonetheless, the impetus for commencing my language studies did start with my desire to read Scripture in the original Koine Greek—the language used by the authors of the New Testament. In fact, approximately 8 months prior to beginning my introductory Greek course with Dr. James Stuart Murray at the Classics Department at UNB Fredericton, I began my study of Greek privately and completely on my own. After meeting Dr. Murray through a mutual friend, I asked him if he would help me with my studies in Greek, and he graciously agreed. After a few months over the summer of 1999, I decided that I needed to take my private studies to the next level. Therefore, in September, I enrolled in one non-degree status course entitled Introductory Ancient Greek I. In fact, I still remember my actual first day of class—September 14th 1999.
After receiving a final grade of A+ in my introductory Greek course, it seemed that I had found my calling. As it obviously turned out, I possessed a natural gift for learning languages—in this case Ancient Greek. With the success of my first completed university course under my belt, I decided to enroll in the BA in Classics at UNB. So in January 2000 at the age of 29, I was a full time university student. It was not until the following academic year that I actually began my study of Latin, however. Indeed, I began learning Latin for the first time in September 2000 just two months shy of my 30th birthday—showing that one can start learning Latin at any age. After a few more years, I earned my BA in May of 2003 and later was admitted into the Graduate program at Dalhousie University in Classics—more specifically Greek Literature (Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey) and Latin Medieval and Neo-Platonic Philosophy (Plotinus, Iamblicus, Anselm, Aquinas, Bonaventure and Augustine). My published MA thesis was on Augustine’s use of Romans 1:19-20.
So how did learning Latin specifically help me? Well, If I were to tell you that 50% of the English vocabulary derives from a Latin word origin, would you be keen enough to see the value in that fact? One amiable proponent of learning Latin in the 20th century was Dorothy L. Sayers, a renowned English crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist, translator, and humanist. In fact, and more importantly for my argument here, she was an ardent student of modern and classical languages—including Greek and Latin. What did Dorothy have to say about Latin’s academic use and ability to educate students to a higher level of academic achievement? In her own words she writes,
“I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent.” National Review.
Indeed, Thomas Jefferson says,
"For classical learning I have ever been a zealous advocate."--Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 1814. ME 14:200.
"When we advert that the ancient classical languages are considered as the foundation preparatory for all the sciences; that we have always had schools scattered over the country for teaching these languages, which often were the ultimate term of education; that these languages are entered on at the age of nine or ten years, at which age parents would be unwilling to send their children from every part of the State to a central and distant university, and when we observe that... there are to be a plurality of them, we may well conclude that the Greek and Latin are the objects of these colleges... and that they are intended as the portico of entry to the university." --Thomas Jefferson to Wilson C. Nicholas, 1816. ME 14:452
"[The Latin and Greek] languages... constitute the basis of good education, and are indispensable to fill up the character of a 'well-educated man.'" --Thomas Jefferson: Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes, 1824. ME 19:444.
'The public education... we divide into three grades: 1. Primary schools, in which are taught reading, writing, and common arithmetic, to every infant of the State, male and female. 2. Intermediate schools, in which an education is given proper for artificers and the middle vocations of life; in grammar, for example, general history, logarithms, arithmetic, plane trigonometry, mensuration, the use of the globes, navigation, the mechanical principles, the elements of natural philosophy, and, as a preparation for the University, the Greek and Latin languages. 3. An University, in which these and all other useful sciences shall be taught in their highest degree; the expenses of these institutions are defrayed partly by the public, and partly by the individuals profiting of them.' --Thomas Jefferson to A. Coray, 1823. ME 15:487.
"[As to] the extent to which classical learning should be carried in our country... The utilities we derive from the remains of the Greek and Latin languages are, first, as models of pure taste in writing. To these we are certainly indebted for the rational and chaste style of modern composition which so much distinguishes the nations to whom these languages are familiar... Second. Among the values of classical learning, I estimate the luxury of reading the Greek and Roman authors in all the beauties of their originals. And why should not this innocent and elegant luxury take its preeminent stand ahead of all those addressed merely to the sense?... Third. A third value is in the stores of real science deposited and transmitted us in these languages, to wit: in history, ethics, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, natural history, etc." --Thomas Jefferson to John Brazier, 1819. ME 15:208
"It may be truly said that the classical languages [Latin and Greek] are a solid basis for most, and an ornament to all the sciences." --Thomas Jefferson to John Brazier, 1819. ME 15:211
Pope Benedict XV says,
“I now entered the first class of what today would be called the gymnasium for classical languages [Greek and Latin]…In retrospect it seems to me that an education in Greek and Latin antiquity created a mental attitude that resisted seduction by a totalitarian ideology.” Memoirs.
Clearly, these well known historical figures saw the value of learning Latin. Let me turn to some of the wise and sound reasons for learning the Latin language in high school before university.
WISE AND SOUND REASONS FOR LEARNING LATIN
Latin and Greek etymological roots are found in virtually all of the disciplines in university including: Biology, Geology, Astronomy, Kinesiology, Forestry, Pharmacy, Philosophy, Law, Medicine et al. Learning at least 3 years of High School Latin before entering university will cut down by 50% the time it takes your child to learn any of these and other subjects whose terminology derive from a Latin and Greek origin. This is a proven fact, which can be independently verified mainly because Latin is at the root of many other subjects. By learning Latin—an inflected language (the ending of the words rather than word placement in the sentence determine the grammatical meaning), the student will gain all the necessary tools for learning over 50% of the meanings of all English words without using a dictionary. If you add Ancient Greek into the mix that percentage increases to 85%! Imagine the freedom this would give you and your child when reading a novel, an article, or any other written document. Moreover, many English words contain prefixes and suffixes which derive directly from Latin and Greek. By learning Latin prepositions which are generally used in English prefixes and suffixes, the Latin student will be well armed to discern the meanings of many English words without any help.
After only a few short lessons, students will see the intrinsic value of learning Latin and just how grasping this language can and will help him or her throughout his or her academic and professional career. Indeed, the Latin student will discover the genuine joy it is to learn Latin. In fact, by learning Latin and Greek, the student will also have the wonderful pleasure of learning about two of the greatest civilizations that have influenced modern western philosophy, education, arts and science. Lastly, learning Latin will enable each student to learn all the intricate syntactical and grammatical structures of the English language and more importantly retain those syntactical and grammatical structures. I challenge you to be bold and learn Latin for yourself no matter how old you may be. You will begin to experience the benefits and merits immediately. More importantly, if you have a child or children who are currently in high school you owe it to them to grant them the wonderful pleasure of learning Latin from me a qualified, professional, gifted and passionate Latin instructor who holds both a BA and MA in Greek and Latin and who has over 10 years teaching experience at the junior high, high school, and university levels—including at Edith Cavell, Moncton High School, Crandall University, Dalhousie University, McMaster University and privately. I offer one on one private lessons, which are designed with each student’s learning style in mind. Also, I offer group lessons up to a maximum of 10 students per class and a 40% discount off the one on one lesson cost. Enrol your child today for my new and fun introductory Latin classes, which begin this summer on June 26th, 2017! For more details, please contact me, Kevin Powers, at 506-233-8641 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Latin Advantage
"Latin is the key to the vocabulary and structure of the Romance languages and to the structure of all the Teutonic languages, as well as to the technical vocabulary of all the sciences and to the literature of the entire Mediterranean civilization, together with all its historical documents." Dorothy Sayers,
The National Review
"Across the nation, studies have shown Latin to be effective in improving . . .
Studies conducted by the Educational Testing Service show that Latin students consistently outperform all other students on the verbal portion of the SAT."
Click on the link below to view one study!