Latin isn’t a dead language – it’s resurgent

August 31, 2010

Two pieces of news have been passed on to me in recent days, both interesting on their own merits, but more so when considered together.

Firstly, a researcher at the University of Cambridge School Classics project has spent the last five months telephoning every single secondary school in the country, and has discovered that there are still 1,081 schools which offer Latin, 447 of them independent schools and 634 of them state schools. 58 more state schools are due to start offering the subject in September.

So for the first time since the introduction of modern language GCSEs in the 1980s, Latin is now offered in more state than independent schools. I don’t want to be overly optimistic about this. Latin has hardly found its way into hundreds of sink-estate comprehensive schools throughout Britain – doubtless of the 634 state schools a large number will be selective grammars. Moreover 634 schools make up only 13 per cent of state schools, while 447 is 60 per cent of independent schools. Nevertheless, the figure is an extremely encouraging one, reflecting the success of the £5 million DfES funding for digital materials to support the study of Classics in schools, and of the Government’s “Gifted and Talented” initiative.

Overall, there are now 115 more schools offering Latin than there were in 2008. More than anything, this reflects the increasing awareness that Latin, unlike subjects such as English, cannot be “dumbed down”, making a GCSE or A level in it a very useful tool for any pupil wishing to prove their intelligence. While the recommended number of tuition hours for a GCSE course is 120-140, for Latin the average input is 272. That’s twice as much. Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, Latin is obviously harder than other subjects. This used to be a reason for schools to stop offering it – now the opposite is true.

The second piece of news was that a group of 20 Oxfordshire students who have been studying Latin from scratch on Saturday mornings for the past two years received their GCSE results on Tuesday. The programme was offered by the Oxford University’s Latin Teaching Scheme, and had an extremely low dropout rate. The students achieved 14 A* to C grades (including 3 A*s and 3As), and many of them are going on to study the subject at A level.

The success (and very existence) of this scheme is an excellent thing – but it is also a shame that these students have had to give up their Saturday mornings to achieve such a worthwhile qualification. The Oxford Classics faculty runs the programme (and funds it entirely without government subsidy) because not a single state school in Oxfordshire offers Latin to GCSE or A level. Given the evident rise of Latin elsewhere, this is surprising and a great shame. Latin is neither dead nor dying, but this is proof that the work of the Government and of universities to facilitate and encourage Latin in the state sector is far from done.

Source: Telegraph


Harvard’s Valedictorian to Become Dominican Nun

August 31, 2010
Here’s a great story . . .  Don’t tell Mary Anne Marks the Catholic Church is an oppressive, misogynistic disaster. She knows better. And she’s got a Harvard degree, too.

Miss Marks, a native of Queens, N.Y., graduated from Harvard University this past semester with an undergraduate degree in classics and English, delivering her commencement address in Latin. This fall, she begins a new life, discerning her future consecrated to Christ as a Catholic religious sister with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, in Ann Arbor, Mich.
. . .

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You are a Harvard graduate. Aren’t you surrendering all the possibilities that entails by entering a convent?

MARY ANNE MARKS: Yes, if one doesn’t see becoming a well-educated, intellectually alive nun as one of the possibilities. . . .

LOPEZ: I don’t know about you, but I read the New York Times. A number of the op-ed columnists there, and a number of the news stories, tell me that the Catholic Church is anti-woman. And from other stories, about the various scandals, the Catholic Church also sounds like a dying, loser organization of sinners. Why would you choose to represent it in such a public, hard-to-miss way — in a religious habit?

MARKS: I feel privileged to represent the Catholic Church in a visible way, because it is an organization of sinners and sinners-turned-saints, emphatically alive, expanding, and responsive to the needs of the time, an organization that has been enormously effective in promoting the spiritual and material well-being of women and men throughout the 2,000 years of its existence.

From its earliest years, the Church’s doctrine of the equality of all humans as beloved children of God and its reverence for Mary as the spouse and mother of God elevated women to a status previously unheard of. In our own times, the Church’s unequivocal opposition to practices such as abortion and contraception, which harm women physically and psychologically, and threaten to render them victims of their own and others’ unchecked desires, makes the Church a lone voice above the chaos, promoting women’s dignity and happiness.

The cry that the Church is a “dying, loser organization of sinners” echoes down the centuries; it rang out in Christ’s day, it rang out in Luther’s day, and it rings out in ours. The second part always has and always will be too true. Kyrie eleison. The erroneousness of the first part is suggested by the Church’s record of accomplishments and its longevity to this point, and by the new growth that people of my generation rejoice to see.

. . .

LOPEZ: I don’t know Harvard to be a great incubator or beacon of religious vocations. Am I wrong?

MARKS: Yes, Deo gratias! A couple of years ago, a young man who finished Harvard in three years entered the seminary in St. Louis. A little further back, a young woman who attended Harvard and lived in the same women’s residence that I did joined the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. One of my friends, whom I met while she was pursuing a degree at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, joined the Religious Sisters of Mercy two years ago. This July 25, two young men from Harvard joined the Eastern Province of the Dominicans.

Read the whole interview here. Here’s a video of her delivering her now famous commencement speech in Latin:
Source: Sacred Page