Until the 20th century, the study of Latin has been a major point of emphasis in Western education, and this was the case even in American public schools up until 1962. As modern education turned toward utilitarianism, Latin study dropped 79% over the next 14 years. However, since 1976 Latin has been on the rise for some of the same reasons it is a major part of our curriculum at Lourdes Classical. As it turns out, Latin is quite "practical" after all!
why study a dead language?
1. Mental Discipline
St. Thomas Aquinas defined wisdom as the ability to "order things rightly." The study of Latin helps us do just that. Latin is so highly and rationally structured and precise that students of Latin develop precision in higher order thinking. This training helps students discover and make sense of the truth found in all content areas.
2. mastery of english
In order to master English, one must master the universal structures and principles of language itself. Since 55% of all English words and 90% of two-syllable English words come from Latin, a student's vocabulary is expanded and his range of expression is amplified. "It allows you to adore words, take them apart, and find out where they came from" (Theodore Geisel, aka, "Dr. Seuss").
3. deepens our roots
It's in our "cultural DNA". Latin offers an indispensable lens through which to understand Western society and Christianity, as it is deeply embedded into the fabric of both. As American students wrestle with complex political, social, moral, and existential questions, they gain keen insight into a modern culture built around a Roman/Catholic framework. Christian worship, theological studies, and discipleship formation are also greatly aided by studying what remains the official language of the Church.
4. Improves test scores
Latin is everywhere. It's found not only in English, Scripture, and theology, but also in history, science, literature, and logic. Study after study shows that Latin students consistently outperform their peers on standardized tests. The time period when American schools increasingly nixed Latin from the curriculum also saw a 33-point drop in the average verbal SAT score and a sharp increase in the number of college remedial English courses. Subsequent studies demonstrate that Latin improves SAT scores between 100-155 points, and the impact is found on not just the verbal section but also math.
5. foundation for further foreign-language studies
About 80% of the words in the "Romance Languages" (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian) find their origin in Latin. For those parents interested in providing their children with an education in a "more practical" language such as Spanish, the study of Latin provides a tremendous foundation!