Ut Docui necne ut Docui?
Several weeks ago, my friend Hortense called me to say Merry Christmas and catch up. She told me about her Education students at the university and I told her I hadn’t had my foot peed on in weeks.
That didn’t seem very glamorous, so I switched to blathering on about planning our school year and tried to get in a few plugs for the awesomeness that is homeschooling. She talked a little about training your brain to work, and how important it is to persevere when solving tough problems.
At least I think that’s what she was talking about. Professional Professors seem to have their own lingo and I might have gotten lost in a couple of places.
I was inspired to mention that I am planning on teaching my kids Latin. Trying to impress people always bites me in the ass, I should try to remember that. I rather thought a professional teacher-of-teachers, who just five minutes before was talking about the importance of complicated reasoning, would think Latin was a cool idea.
I was mistaken.
In fact, I was completely nonplussed that a person who has dedicated her whole life to learning and teaching would argue rather strenuously against learning something. Even if you could successfully make the argument that Latin has no practical value at all (and I don’t think you can), what about learning for learning’s sake? What a boring life we would lead if we only devoted ourselves to knowing the bare minimum. I would not knit, lunatics people would not climb Everest; and sports, music, and art would disappear completely.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t practiced any speeches, and I embarrassed myself thrashing around trying to make a coherent argument. I have reasons, but I don’t thing I communicated them very effectively – Big is very verbal and into language and I think he would dig it; a huge chunk of the English language (50%) comes from Latin (not to mention the romance languages, which base 80% of their vocabularies in Latin); learning Latin develops precision, logic, analytical and reasoning skills, and helps students better understand English grammar; and of course the least significant reason, that people who know Latin positively KILL on the SATs.
I find this Memoria Press article by Cheryl Lowe to be very convincing, as well as this bit from Climbing Parnassus by Tracy Lee Simmons (which I have not read yet)-
“Every lesson in Latin is a lesson in logic…Taking the simple two-word Latin sentence Vellem mortuos (“I would that they were dead”), … this sentence aright requires fourteen intellectual turns. A student must know (1) the person, (2) tense, (3) voice, (4) number, (5) mood of the verb…, (6) it comes from volo, meaning (7) ‘I wish’; and that (8) the subjunctive has here a particular shade of meaning. As to mortuos, he must know that it is (9) the accusative, (10) plural, (11) masculine, from (12) mortuus, meaning (13) ‘dead’; (14) the reason why the accusative is necessary…. A student who slips up on any one of these steps is bound to make a lovely mess when he comes to translate… In Latin you must be absolutely right, or you are not right at all…
Can anyone seriously maintain that such stiff training in just expression leaves no salutary marks upon the intellect of someone who, having successfully run its gauntlet, becomes captive to the habits of the precise mind?”
I am more concerned with training my children HOW to learn and HOW to think than I am with WHAT they learn. Accidentally forgetting to include Colorado history (I have a whole rant about state history, actually) worries me far less than sending my kids into adulthood without the tools they need to make good decisions and problem solve; decide what they want to do, and figure out how to get there.