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Friday, March 2, 2007

Lingua pulchra salvanda est

They're talking about eliminating Latin at Grant High School -- the last public school in Portland still teaching that wonderful (albeit dead) language. Latin lovers promise a fight, and I'm with them! Oriens morior, moriens orior! Per hostes, per hastas! Mens sana and womens sana! Semper ad hominem! Semper ubi sub ubi!

Maybe I should write an entire post about Portland city government in Latin. That would keep them guessing.

Comments (32)

I always preferred the mixed sana. But to your point, the schools don't seem even to teach English grammar any more, so there is little foundation for learning other languages. Latin was an important part of my basic education -- even though I don't remember much of it, it helps daily with spelling and grammar, and it affords access to some of the western world's most important literature and learning.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum!

We are border to Mexico, but we can't speak their language...speaks well for our educatures...NOT. Latin is a dead and now maybe buried, hooray...let's get on with mandatory Spanish language.

Make that educators. lol Hey it's early.

I think including Spanish as part of the basic school curriculum is a great idea. But I've watched my granddaughter struggle with Spanish in high school in Portland, where it is taught in a way that ignores grammar or assumes it doesn't exist. This is confusing and difficult for anyone over six.

I hope they keep teaching Latin.

When I was ten years old, my family visited a friend in London. When he noticed I was reading a 'young adult' version of The Iliad, he pointed to a volume on his top bookshelf: the original, in Greek. I surprised to learn that the classical languages were required classes in English schools, and thought to myself that I was in some way being cheated because American educators set such a low standard. I was finally able to take classes in classical Greek as an adult. English grammar was not taught in my high school and I struggled to keep up at the beginning.

PSU stopped offering that class after the first year, but complaints from students in the class who needed to complete a two-year language requirement were heeded by the administration.

After the second year, it was gone, and the English professor who taught it for love stepped back into retirement. I followed up with a year in a Latin study group.

Without the teaching of classical language, students miss an opportunity to learn languages which are more complex and carry meaning more efficiently than modern languages. It requires a stretch of the mind to learn them, and this training is needed in these times of sound bites, spin, and instant gratification.

The discovery, first hand, that people removed in time by more than two thousand years could think and write with more sophistication than we do might also help to give us some humility.


I am not sure, but a big part of the decision might be the availability teachers with this endorsement area, as well as the number of students opting to learn Latin.

I took two years of Latin from Mrs. Pam Brown at Grant in the late 70's. She was incredible.

No one prepared me better for college than she. Mrs. Brown always said, if you think this is hard, wait until you get to college. Boy, she was tough, but the accomplisment I felt when I earned an "A" from her will never be forgotten.

After meeting the challenges of Mrs. Brown, college was a piece of cake.

I can't remember any of the particular phrases, noun declensions or verb conjugations, but the work ethic she taught me will be with me forever.

Wouldn't it be something like--

Ave Mrs. Brown!!!


I took Latin at Cleveland HS in '69 and '70. The teacher was Mrs. Fisher. She returned in '71 and that was the end of Latin at Cleveland. I didn't realize it was still being taught anywhere.

I really liked it. We read "Caeser's Conquests" in the original. Also learned that a "V" in latin is pronounced "W", not the Catholicized "V". Don't know how they knew that for sure, but that was what they taught. Latin gave me a wonderful foundation for the other romance languages and I continued my language studies with Spanish.

Latin was a great class and a great discipline. It's too bad it isn't taught routinely.

Ooops... I meant "she retired".

The official motto of Chicago is written in Latin: Ubi est mea.


"Where's mine?"

yeah, i'm a longtime Latin student too; if for no other reason than in vita priore ego imperator Romanus fui.

"Maybe I should write an entire post about Portland city government in Latin. That would keep them guessing."

You should not be so presumptuous, Jack.

Erik Sten took four years of Latin at our alma mater, Grant High School.

I am sure he would be happy to translate for the entire council whatever Latin message you sent us.

Compulsory Spanish?

Oy vey!

How about compulsory English, and zero ESL classes.

maybe Eric will remember Cicero from his Wheelock:

Salus populi suprema lex.

And that would be my submission for the new city motto:

The health of the people is the highest law.

what's the current city motto?

Erik's motto is: Quisquis est bonus mihi est bonus pro urbs.

Mandatory Chinese, that we may properly greet the new overlords when they come to collect our debt.

Semper ubi sub ubi! ;o)

Oh, maaaan. We just went to the Grant open house last month and no one said word one about no more latin.

My kid (an incoming freshman) wants to take latin, no less...

Erik Sten took four years of Latin at our alma mater, Grant High School.

I am sure he would be happy to translate for the entire council whatever Latin message you sent us.

It's obvious that none of you took finance.

"I am not sure, but a big part of the decision might be the availability teachers with this endorsement area, as well as the number of students opting to learn Latin."

My son James is a freshman at Grant who wants to study environmental science to be a bird or reptile ecologist someday -- which is why he was so psyched to find a Latin track in the same school as a science specialty certification. He loves Mrs. Brown, and so does a whole classful of other kids. They had some kind of Latin event at Reed last fall. Frankly I was shocked that -- what?-- dozens of young people showed up, and grownups too. They're weird but there they are. No offense.

James says Mrs. Brown has already found at least one suitable replacement teacher and that the whole matter now rests on folx pestering the school district to spare the darn class -- the O recently ran a big story about how the district is paring off courses across the city to save money. Past experience shows that if parents and friends push back, occasionally Vicki Phillips caves.

I feel like we're all just fighting over crumbs......because why should wanting to take Latin interfere with anyone's need or desire to learn Spanish?

The whole schools thing. Why are we so stoopid about it? Sometimes the bastards really DO get you down.....

Once you learn Latin, Spanish or Italian are a snap.

I suppose I'm heartened to see so many others outraged about this. I took my 2 years of Latin from Sister Miriam and Sister Elise, and it served me very well, both as a future "living" languages major, and later as a lawyer and writer. When you learn Latin, you automatically master English grammar (which doesn't seem to be taught much, or even particularly well-mastered by our children's teachers, these days). The problem is not replacing the fabulous Pam Brown, because according to what I heard, she has someone lined up who she feels would be an excellent fit to replace her. I have a child entering Grant next year who was very much looking forward to taking Latin; it goes well with his interests in science, and we are just bummed about this. Gallia est divisa in tres partes...

The funniest thing I remember about (catholic) high school Latin was that our principal at the time was a dead ringer for the "centurion" depicted in a black and white (what else) plate in our ancient Henley Latin textbook. Minus the sword, armor and helm, of course.

There was no one like my second-year Latin teacher, Mr. Parisi. "Latin Lou," as he was known, wept for Caesar on the ides of March -- and I don't think he was kidding. The window pole was his pilum. Each row of students had a centurion. He was the sweetest guy you ever met.

At the same time around 15 of us took ancient Greek from another gem of a guy, Tony Verdoni. ο, η, το, but it isn't the same without the rough breathings. Middle voice, dual number -- it was exquisite.

Classical languages were the best preparation for the study of law that I ever could have hoped for.

Nomina stultorum in parietibus et portis semper videmus.

The demise of Latin in the two high schools I work in is traceable to our inability to hire a Latin teacher who was certified to teach it in the New Jersey public schools. We had it up to 10 years ago. I know of other nearby schools with the same problem.

Number of native Latin speakers: none.

Number of native Spanish speakers: around 300 million.

Number of native speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese or another Chinese language: about 1.2 billion.

I can tell you from experience that studying Latin grammar, or English grammar for that matter, won't help you master Mandarin. Nor will it help you with most other world languages.

Nor will it help you with most other world languages.

If you think Spanish isn't a "world language," there's not much use continuing this conversation.

Of course Spanish is a world language. And if you want to learn Spanish, do it the way I did: study Spanish, not Latin. My point is that the excuse people always trot out for studying Latin--that it provides some sort of indispensable grounding in systematic grammar--makes no sense. The grammar and syntax of nearly all spoken languages is nothing like that of Latin (or English, or Spanish).

There is a line between commenting and being an argumentative jerk. You just crossed it for the last time.

I have good news - Grant High will have Latin next year. I heard the words directly from two guidance counselors at Grant mere minutes ago.

My son's now doing forecasting for his freshman year & it's in the course catalog; I asked them if it was iffy (using the story in The O referenced here as the basis for the question.) They said it was iffy when the story ran, but that's no longer the case - so my kid can safely sign up for Latin...!

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