Letter: Latin Should Be Part of the Core Curriculum

Latin is the language of law, medicine and science and should not be removed from the Kings Park curriculum says President of Suffolk Classical Society.

The following was presented on Tuesday, April 3rd, to the Kings Park Board of Education and the LOTE Department in an effort to have them reconsider their recent decision to drop Latin from the curriculum despite a current enrollment of 26 for the 2012-2013 year.

It has been my experience over the years for my Latin students to come back to me to tell me that their grades in all their subjects have improved since they began their study of Latin.

Just as we don’t judge a book by its cover, but by its content, individuals tend to be judged by their content – and particularly by the medium expressing that content – their vocabulary.

Even though English is derived from the Anglo-Saxon language, approximately 75% of its vocabulary is derived from Latin – compliments of the Norman Invasion in 1066 by speakers of a Latin based language.

Thus, the language of the government, the aristocracy, and academia was anchored in Latin, whereas the language of the peasantry, the farmers in the outlying areas, remained that of Anglo-Saxon, “cow,” “chicken,” horse,” “house,” etc.
Often we read about the rankings of educational systems throughout the world only to discover that, despite the fact that the United States spends more money on education than other countries, European countries tend to rank higher. These countries routinely have Latin as part of their core curriculum – case in point, Finland, which in a recent survey ranked highest, introduces Latin in the 2nd grade.

In addition, Latin is the language of Law, Medicine, and Science – areas that many students frequently pursue as their careers.

Likewise, since performance on the SAT’s and similar tests are considered one of the key indicators of a student’s academic abilities and vocabulary and critical thinking are key foci in these, what better foundation can be given to a student than Latin?
Finally, since college is the goal of the majority of the district’s students, one has to ask, “What causes a student’s application to ‘stand out’?”

Certainly, it is not the study of Spanish since the study of Spanish is so overwhelmingly encouraged through most school districts that it appears on most applicants’ transcripts. However, when Latin appears on a student’s transcript, it singles out that student as a true academician, one who has the ability, desire, and discipline to pursue advanced studies – and that makes that student a desirable candidate for that college.

Over the years, every one of my Latin students has been accepted to the university or college of his/her choice. Stony Brook, one of the top ten ranked universities in the United States, holds Latin in such esteem that it hosts two Latin competitions for Long Island high schools each year – a Declamatio in the Fall and a Certamen in the Spring.

Thank you – or as they would say in Ancient Rome, Gratias.

L. John Friia
President, Suffolk Classical Society

James J McDonnell April 10, 2012 at 01:23 PM
I still remember hearing a radio interview many years ago with the President of Saint John's University. After experiencinging four years of (manditory) Latin (and three of German) at the original Saint John's Prep, I was pleased that the interviewer asked the President - I believe it was Father Flynn - why they continued to teach Latin in the light of no one in the world speaking it. He responded that, although Latin was in the Language Department, its real purpose was to teach "a system of thinking". I studied Latin over 50 years ago and I have forgotten amost every Latin word, but I'm sure that the system of thought is still ingrained within me.
KPLifer April 10, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Why not cancel some Italian classes to free up some funds for Latin? I am pretty sure you do not need to know how to speak italian to succeed in life.
Frank Mercuri April 10, 2012 at 03:18 PM
To Anonymous,italian and Spanish are from the Latin. latin is the root of many parts of english. To suceed in life the languages more used is english yet I have noticed that many cannot even speak it correctly or write properly. "ya know" "yeah, ya know"
KP Student April 10, 2012 at 03:29 PM
The same argument could be made for Latin. I'm not making it, because if I had space in my schedule I'd continue onto AP Italian and take Latin! I don't, but some other people do. Your opinion is one I've heard before, but if students are from an Italian family then learning the language is necessary!
John from Kings Park April 10, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Latin? Ridiculous. I've never seen a Help Wanted ad that states "Latin Speaking a plus". I've never heard "For Latin, press 3" on a telephone. English & Spanish are the two that'll help you the most in the real world. Latin. C'mon. Why not teach Sanskrit while you're at it...
Anon April 11, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Kings Park does not have a certified teacher to teach latin. It would require the hiring of a new teacher. The BOE said it may consider offering latin every other year which might be a good option. Still need the teacher though. Regards
anon April 11, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I doubt there is any causal link between other countries performing better and their use of Latin. I can't speak for doctors or scientists, but I'm a lawyer and my year of Latin at KPHS and 2 years in college did not provide any benefit to my career. In fact, Spanish would have been far more beneficial.
KP Student April 11, 2012 at 09:13 PM
What about Ms. Macy who currently teaches it?
AM April 11, 2012 at 10:51 PM
I took Latin for several years in High School (not KP). It was a major benefit going into the medical field, it is the foundation for most languages... you need spanish to order take out at a drive through and latin if you are heading anywhere into the fieldsof science or medicine...


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