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Back to November Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 274 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS NOVEMBER 2008

More Students are Taking Latin
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Latin teachers are in high demand as both public and private schools experience something of a classical renaissance. Many past generations, including the generation of the Founding Fathers, saw Latin as essential knowledge for any educated person. Even in 1905, 56% of American high school students studied Latin. The language's popularity in schools reached its nadir in the 1970s, when only around 6,000 high schoolers took the National Latin Exam each year.

In 2005 and 2006, more than 134,000 students took the National Latin Exam. Twice as many students now take the Advanced Placement Latin exam as took it just a decade ago. Popular culture also reflects a new and living interest in this dead language. Several of the Harry Potter books, for example, are available in Latin translations, such as Harrius Potter et Camera Secretorum (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). Children might also enjoy Cattus Petasatus, the Latin version of Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat.

Latin is currently the fourth most popular language studied in schools, after Spanish, French and German. According to Marty Abbott of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Latin may soon, even next year, pass up German for the third most popular spot. (New York Times, 10-07-08)

Harry Mount, author of Carpe Diem: Put a Little Latin in Your Life, writes about the virtues of Latin. Learning Latin trains the mind and sharpens English literacy in ways nothing else can approximate, according to Mount. Mount hopes that the signs of Latin's resurgence might mean good things for American politics and discourse as well, as future leaders study Roman history and Latin literature and language.

"It is no coincidence that the professionalization of politics — which encourages budding politicians to think of education as mere career preparation — has occurred during an age of weak rhetoric, shifting moral values, clumsy grammar and a terror of historical references and eternal values that the Romans could teach us a thing or two about," writes Mount. (New York Times, 12-03-07)


 
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