Thursday, September 4, 2008

Amo, Amas, Amat, And So On

Another September, another group of bright young undergraduates yearning to be Latinists. Well, perhaps "yearning" is a bit strong, at least in some cases. Anyway, I met with my new group for the first time yesterday, and they seem promising. I've officially got 30, of whom 27 showed up yesterday, along with one fellow who wasn't on my class list on account of late registration. So it's a full class, which is nice. The students showed a willingness to come forward and volunteer answers, which is also a good thing.

One interesting thing came up yesterday. One of my "first class" exercises is involves giving the students the sentence "Latin is a(n)_______________ language" and asking them to fill in the blank. Then we discuss concepts like "dead," "Indo-European," and "inflected." Well, one of the suggestions offered up yesterday was "snobby." I sigh heavily at this point, but not in the direction of the particular student who gave that answer. I know exactly where he's coming from; I have had people accuse me, to my face, of arrogance and "elitism" based merely on the fact that I teach Latin. The perceived "snobbishness" of Latin has been used as a weapon to attack its inclusion in the modern curriculum, and if you wish to see that line of reasoning joyfully and deliciously beaten to a pulp, then I recommend Peter Jones' essay "Primal Scream," published in his book An Intelligent Person's Guide to Classics. The battle against the idea of "Latin as snobbery" has not been won yet, but I set out each September to do my bit.

On the other hand, the omens are good. As I mentioned some time ago, I've been tutoring a woman who is now teaching Latin at a local High School. At her first Grade 10 Latin class this past Tuesday, she had more than 35 students. This, I think, is a good thing!


Brian Barker said...

I see that Boris Johnson wants Latin to be taught in all London schools. However I would prefer Esperanto on the basis that it has great propaedeutic values.

If you have time can I ask you to visit for evidence?

Chorus said...

This is wonderful... I have to say though, having known you for pretty much my whole life, arrogant and elitist are two of the very last words I would think of to describe you, Latin teacher and all.

My desire to peak into your classroom and see you teach grows pretty much daily!!

Chorus said...

I suppose that should have been peek... oops!

Chunklets said...

Thanks, Chorus!

Brian, I actually survey my Latin students at the beginning of each course to find out what languages other than English they know. This year, for the first time, I have an Esperanto-speaker (other languages that are making their first appearance in my classroom: Malay, Malaysian Hokkien, Scots Gaelic)!

I can't seem to get youtube working today...