Greetings Summit Family! Question: What Does the Resignation of Pope Benedict have to do with Classical Education?
It is, perhaps, the most oft-repeated question directed to Classical educators; “Why study Latin?” Author Douglas Wilson cites four reasons, the first of which is that the study of Latin promotes mental discipline. Latin is more precise and structured than English. The study of an inflected, declinable language like Latin is an excellent means of developing rigorous thinking skills. In our culture the cultivation of critical reflection in education is an uphill battle. We would all rather coast downhill than peddle uphill. G.K. Chesterton said that Satan fell from the sheer force of gravity and so we are naturally drawn. Latin is one of the pedals on the bike and we have hills to climb. A second reason for the study of Latin is that it encourages literary appreciation. A great percentage of the written work forming the backbone of Western culture is in Latin, whether it be literary work, theology or scientific treatise. The works of Virgil, Augustine and Copernicus were all written in Latin; the list goes on and on. Though our students may never actually read these great works in the original, an understanding of the parent language will enrich their reading and understanding of the translations. A third reason for the study of Latin is that it leads to a mastery of English. In truth about 80 percent of the vocabulary of the English language comes from Latin or Greek. Studies have shown that students with several years of Latin typically score at least 100 points higher on the verbal portion of the SAT than those who haven’t studied Latin. A fourth reason for the study of Latin is that it helps provide a solid foundation for preparation for either vocational or lay Christian ministry (and the Apostle Paul said that we are all ministers; cf. Eph. 4:10—12). Apart from much of the current lay theology written in the West, the vast majority of the great works of theology and Biblical commentary of the Church have been written in Latin, Catholic and Protestant as well. The culture we are preparing our children to engage is in desperate need of a Godly witness that is articulate, eloquent, gracious and, most of all, informed. I don’t believe we can engage this future intelligently if we don’t understand and properly employ the roots of our past, an understanding of Latin among them.
On a more benign note I return to my opening question; what does the resignation of Pope Benedict have to do with Classical education? It is interesting that an education in Latin gave Giocanna Chirri, a reporter for an Italian wire service, the scoop on one of the biggest stories of the day. To quote the BBC News Service, Feb. 12, 2013,
“The reporter who broke the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation got the scoop because she understood his announcement in Latin. How much of it is spoken in the Vatican and elsewhere these days? There are not many occasions when a reporter needs a grasp of Latin. But one came on Monday when the Pope made a short announcement. Most of the reporters present had to wait for the Vatican’s official translations into Italian, English and languages that people actually speak. But not Italian wire service reporter Giovanna Chirri, who had clearly been paying attention in secondary school. Her Latin was up to the job and she broke the story of the Pope’s resignation to the world.”
Whatever our vocation or avocation, our lives will be enriched by a working knowledge of the language that, more than any other, has framed Western culture. As life-long learners our children will need a well-stocked tool bag–and it is no overstatement to say that Latin is a power tool.
Heads-up for the coming week:
- At assembly on March 6th there will be a recording of Summit Students saying the Pledge of Allegiance which will later be broadcast on Spirit 105.3 FM (as soon as we know the broadcast date we will tell you).
- Thank you for the great ingathering of items for auction! Keep them coming!
- Thank you Summit families for giving the school your empty printer cartridges/toners Summit was given $112.00 in purchasing credit at Staples simply from dropping off empty ink cartridges and toners given by parents. It would be wonderful if we all continue to give those same items throughout the coming school year. A seemingly small thing that makes a difference in our budget. Empty cartridges can be given to teachers, or can be placed directly into the Cartridge World box in the library.
- Also, please remember that box tops earn money for our school. If you have questions please contact Kelly Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- We still have an immediate need for recess supervisors!! Open slots are Wednesday at 10:30AM and Monday lunch recess. If any of you could participate in this way it would be great appreciated by our teachers who need this break time for planning.
- Tickets for the auction are still available in Dr. Orton’s office.
- Parents, when you pick up your children please ask them to help police the playground and check to see that they are leaving it in good shape.
- Please continue to PRAY for our school!