Latin–Back From the Dead and More Necessary Than Ever!

Posted on December 4th, 2007 by

And hot on the heels of Robert Proctor’s lecture (see previous)…If you ever needed a reason to study Latin, go take a look at the New York Times op-ed piece A Vote for Latin.    

High school, Jefferson thought, should center on Latin, Greek and French, with grammar and reading exercises, translations into English and the memorizing of famous passages. In 1819, when Jefferson opened the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (built according to classical rules of architecture), he employed only classically trained professors to teach Greek and Roman history.This pattern of Latin learning continued for more than 150 years. Of the 40 presidents since Jefferson, 31 have studied Latin, many at a high level. James Polk graduated from the University of North Carolina, in 1818, with top honors in math and classics. James Garfield taught Greek and Latin from 1856 to 1857 at what is now Hiram College in Ohio. Teddy Roosevelt studied classics at Harvard. 

in 1964, the study of Latin in America collapsed. In 1905, 56 percent of American high school students studied Latin. By 1977, a mere 6,000 students took the National Latin Exam.Recently there have been signs of a revival. The number taking the National Latin Exam in 2005, for instance, shot up to 134,873.

With a little Roman history and Latin under your belt, you end up seeing more everywhere, not only in literature and language, but in the classical roots of Federal architecture; the spread of Christianity throughout Western Europe and, in turn, America; and in the American system of senatorial government.

And if you’re already one of the converted, try reading the article again…in Latin!  Thanks to Bob Arteaga for the link! [update] Read NYT readers’ responses to the piece  here and here.


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