Latin: One Girl’s Sad Story

latinby Dr. Lindsey Scholl, Logic Academic Director and Latin teacher

Sometimes I feel like a one-stringed instrument when it comes to sharing my particular slice of vision at TCS. Mr. Anderson talks about partnering with parents, the Christ-centered nature of the school, student responsibility, goodness, beauty, truth, and all those good things. I talk about Latin.

Admittedly, I have wormed my own way into this role. I certainly uphold the other aspects of the school, most especially its Christ-centered nature. Despite what it may appear to some, I try to make my commitment to and enjoyment of Christ more obvious than my attachment to Latin. But that does not remove the fact that the Latin program is one of my great joys when I think of TCS. The irony here is that I’m not the sharpest Latin knife in the drawer. There are others among our staff and co-teachers who could take down a passage of Cicero while I’m still trying to find the verb. That fact makes me so happy: Latin scholars, one and all, please come to TCS! Just as long as Mr. Anderson lets me give all the talks on why Latin is so important.

In order to convey just why I’m so excited about Latin, I need to give you some of my background. I was raised as a Christian in a Christian home in a middle-sized town in the Midwest. I went to a Bible-believing church and a solid public school. I was taught to read the Bible, own my faith, write persuasive essays, and find ‘x’ in an equation. I also read a great deal of medieval historical fiction. Through my reading and other whispered hints, I learned that there was a language out there that traveled from the roots of my faith, through the castles and cathedrals of medieval Europe, contributed substantially to the making of America as a country, and even held its own through various Industrial Revolutions of the modern era. Not only did this language carry with it centuries of theology, literature, and history, it could also help me with the periodic table. That language was neither French nor Spanish, the two languages offered at my school.

When I went to undergraduate, I eventually became a history major. I learned how important it was to know not just that an event happened, but how it had been considered and preserved through the centuries. My adviser, God bless him, told me over and over how important Latin was for understanding not only Western Civilization, but also several major facets of Church history. But my undergraduate did not offer Latin, so I took French, which I had taken in high school.

It was not until my Master’s program in medieval history that I blissfully heard my professor tell me I had to take Latin. Oh what joy! To be forced into learning something I had wanted to learn since high school! To finally get to know, in intimate detail, that great transmitter of ideas, that great cable that connects the sign that hung over Jesus’ head at the crucifixion, to Constantine, to the Book of Kells, to the Crusades, to monks and nuns, to the Protestant Reformation, to the American Revolution, to me in the Midwest. Basically, I was now able to learn what a great majority of my predecessors already knew and used. I was able to learn Latin.

There are many reasons to learn Latin that I can’t go into here. There are also several objections. Why not focus on the here and now and learn Spanish? Doesn’t Greek do the same thing Latin does? What about eastern cultures? There is weight to each one of these objections. If I could, I’d have TCS teach all languages well, but that is impossible. We are a classical school. If we could require students to become fluent in Greek, Mandarin, Spanish, and Latin, we’d be a power-house linguistic school.

Co-teachers, as summer begins, I want to thank you for all your hard work this year. Your support of our Latin program is critical. It may be a while before you see the fruits of the study in your students’ lives. Yet you will see it. You will see it when they can guess at the meaning of an anatomy term before ever having come across it. You’ll see it when their eyes light up as they see the connection between ‘professor’ and ‘professional.’ You’ll see it when they patiently examine the lineage of an idea, rather than accept it whole-cloth. You’ll see it when they confidently wade into reading Julius Caesar in the original language, seeing in his words the origins of their own.

Be encouraged. The fruit is coming. Latin may not make them better Christians, but it will make them more careful, informed thinkers. And what more can one ask of a school?