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