Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Education Saves the World

Or it might, you know, if we only did it properly.

Here, read this bit in the Times:

There are a number of interesting things about this article.

One is the teaching of Latin. Now as someone who specialized in Greek and Roman literature, you can imagine I am all for the teaching of Latin, and in fact I am. I do think we ought to go back to teaching Latin to all gits, starting at age seven, and not stopping until they're seventeen or so -- and I do think that all of them can learn it, by the way, because Latin is not that hard, no matter what you have heard; Latin is one of the easier of languages: it is so very orderly and makes so much sense. The very learning of the language itself forces the mind to learn order; knowing the language means the student knows grammar, far beyond anything a class in English grammar will give him or her, simply because, in order to read Latin, the student is forced to analyze grammatical structure constantly; and, as this article makes clear, studying Latin doesn't mean just studying language, it means studying culture -- ours, the Roman culture, the Greek culture, Western culture itself. That's why learning Latin is the underpinning of an educated mind. Or it was. Or it should be.

So that's one thing.

Here's another: the article insinuates that these students are succeeding not because they're studying Latin, but because they're in small classes -- 15 students per class. (That's small, apparently -- my daughter's Montessori class has 4 students in it. I drop that in as an aside. Hers is also an unusually small class -- the first grade, just below hers, though, has 10 students, a normal size for her school.) First, I'd like to ask, why is this an either/or? Why is it not both/and? These kids are doing well both because they're learning Latin AND because they're not crammed into a public school classroom with 44 students in the classroom? (As my daughter's public school kindergarten classroom had 44 students in it? One of whom was ED and threw chairs if he was crossed?) By which I mean to ask, we are told, by people who are always telling us with their next breath that we have to pay CEOs a huge salary in order to attract the best men to the position, that you can't solve the problems of public education by throwing money at them, but damn, I say, sounds like to me this might be one you could.

Put more teachers on the ground. How? Why, pay them huge salaries to attract the best (ahem) people into the positions, put fifteen students into each classroom, hire classics majors to teach every student Latin, hire engineers to teach them math, get college professors into the classroom (notice in this article that these *are* college professors teaching here), see what happens.

I have to tell you, with college professors? It wouldn't even have to be huge salaries. Lots of us are working for adjunct pay. You offer us forty a year and benefits, you'll scoop up plenty of adjuncts and folks working two and three year contracts. I ain't lying.

1 comment:

Diane said...

I took three years of high school Latin, and the classes were sheer pleasure. I had a wonderful teacher, and by the third year, I could read a book of Cicero's speeches. I don't think much about it anymore, but all that Latin is probably the reason I can do a fair job of contextual reading of some non-English languages. That has come in pretty handy, since I do not speak any foreign languages.