Tuesday, 19 August 2008

"Loafing with Latin" plus (or minus) a bit of a rant


(The Colosseum in Rome, picture taken from slide show, Senhouse Museum, Maryport)

In "The idle parent: Tom Hodgkinson and son discover how to intersperse loafing with Latin
(taken from The Daily Telegraph) 09/08/2008 " (I've quoted from both articles. Click on them for the full extent of each article. Hadriana.) "One of the many sad developments in education lately has been the death of Latin in state schools (This point is a bit debated at the moment, there has been a surge in interest due to books like Harry Potter. There is currently a big shortage of trained Latin and Classics teachers. Please see The Guardian article below. Hadriana.)
I decided I would learn Latin and teach it to Arthur at the same time. In the kitchen. I had many reasons for this. First, if I am to continue to have my kids educated by the state - about which I have reservations, as I think the state is quite moronic - then they are never going to have Latin lessons, as they would at a private school. Under my expert tutelage, though, my children will become brilliant Latin scholars and therefore will have the pick of the universities. That means I save on school fees. Meaning less work. Meaning more time for loafing.
I ordered Book One. It cost about a tenner. I sat down at the kitchen table with it. Here was a totally different world to the dry rote learning of Kennedy's Latin Primer that I remember from school. The thing is absolute genius. I was speaking Latin after two pages. The language lessons are interspersed with fascinating stories about everyday life in Pompeii, chronicling the doings of beautiful slave girls, naughty dogs, avaricious merchants, skilful painters and drunken cooks.
Luckily Arthur, aged eight, agreed and thought it was great fun too. So now I read a few pages and then go through them with Arthur. I have also followed William Cobbett's advice on teaching children. He writes that he simply left good books on the kitchen table for his son to find and read for himself, reasoning that one tends to learn much more quickly when the learning is undertaken voluntarily rather than being forced by authority.
Miraculously, this seemed to work and I actually had to drag Arthur away from the book because it was time for bed. "I just couldn't leave it alone," he said. The course also offers a host of back-up material online, which is another seduction for computer-friendly children. So may I convey to the creators of this marvellous work my deepest gratitude. Plato said that learning should be play and the Cambridge Latin Course really is fun. And if Latin is this much fun, imagine the larks we'll have when we start learning Greek…" Tom Hodgkinson is editor of The Idler.
Another Guardian article highlights the growing need for more Latin and Classics teachers...
A classic case of undersupply
Latin and Greek are making a comeback - but can universities provide enough teachers? Chris Arnot reports:
Chris Arnot The Guardian, Tuesday February 5 2008, Article history
" "It's not an easy option," says Parr, "Latin is marked particularly rigorously and children have to put in long hours. It demands commitment as well as academic ability."
At least one of her pupils, Molly Makinson, 13, is also studying ancient Greek. ("My grandad used to teach it," she says.) Another, David Mestel, 15, acquired an A* GCSE in Latin in year 9. Along with Luke Freeman-Mills, currently studying A-level Latin at sixth-form college, he's producing a booklet containing translations of Virgil, Horace, Ovid and others. So does he fancy studying the subject as part of a classics degree?
"No," he says. "I will probably do something scientific." For young Mestel, it would seem, translating Latin poetry is simply a bit of fun. "

Hadriana's Mini (Maxi) Rant
I'm all for "demystifying" Latin. It's a subject like any other and yes, sometimes, it can be a bit tricky like Physics or Chemistry or Maths or tying your shoelaces after a good night out. But isn't it good to test the brain and see of what it's capable (or not)? And where is there evidence of the state's "joined up thinking"? If they are thinking of promoting Latin (at Primary School level and further) why do they not train up more teachers? Why push the teaching of modern languages at Primary School level and then allow children to drop the languages at 14? (Brussels has a dearth of decent translators into English.) Why devalue classical languages? Why devalue modern languages for that matter? (Very shortly GSCE's (former O'levels taken at age 16)...will not include "oral" exams). What next? Have Maths exams where the student does not need to add up, subtract, multiply or divide because it violates their human rights...

8 comments:

East Anglian Troy said...

I wish I'd been taught Latin at school. The only "Latin" I learnt was:
Brutus adsum jam foorte
Caesar adarat
Brutus sic in omnibus
Caesar in isat

(read it phonetically)

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hello again, East Anglian Troy. I like that little rhyme. I wonder if I can dig out some more like that. I do love the Monty Python film "Life of Brian" with Michael Palin as "Biggus Dickus"!

East Anglian Troy said...

The beauty of the "Life of Brian" film is that everytime I watch it I see something new (or maybe I'm a slow on the uptake). I'm sure you must particularly love the "what have the Romans ever done for us" segment. And the song at the end - brilliant!
Oh - and thanks for calling by my blog (I'm quite new to this and comments are quite encouraging aren't they?)

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Yes, I must watch that film again. I've never managed to see it properly for ages. I first sneaked in to see it as an under age viewer (with a friend of the correct age "14") at the Odeon in Exmouth. One of my favourite scenes is: Brian (Graham Chapman) painting "Romans go home!" and John Cleese as the Centurion. Here's the scene: (taken from the website: Latin Maxims) http://web.comhem.se/hansdotter/romanes.html

And yes, blog comments are very encouraging (most of the time!)!

tartetartan said...

Have always fancied learning latin - my son wants to be a vet, so maybe I should get him started now? We could both learn together.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hello Tartetartan (do love your name!)...sounds like a good idea. A few words would not go amiss. I've put myself down to go on a course to teach children Latin (down in Dulwich of all places!) so will keep you posted. You might also like to take a look at:
http://www.minimus-etc.co.uk/
'Minimus the Mouse that made Latin cool!'

Juxtabook said...

I wish I had been given the chance to learn Latin at school. If my daughter passes the 11 plus (we're still selctive here in 'North Yorkshire' she will get to go the grammar school which is, paradoxically, a specialist engineering college and kids can't do two humanities or two languages because everything is squeezed out by the complusory science, IT and engineering and business courses. So no Latin there any more either!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

It is interesting hearing your feedback Juxtabook. I'm thinking of starting some Latin courses for children and adults who would like to learn the basics of Latin. (Hopefully there will be a bit of a demand for it.) Thank you for popping by my blog and I will certainly keep an eye on yours.