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Latin Education over the past century

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Latin Education over the past century

Postby Caelius » Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:32 am

Salvēte omnēs!

I'm curious how Latin instruction at the high school and university levels has changed since about 1900. I've tried to do some searching via Google but haven't come up with anything really useful except textbooks. Basically, I'd like to see syllabi for Latin instruction throughout that entire era. I think I'd find that, say, a first-semester Latin class at a university in the early 1900s would cover more material than a first-semester Latin class today, and that the disparity would grow as the level of Latin increased. It seems, for example, that some old high-school-level Latin textbooks from the late 19th and early 20th centuries make Wheelock's look easy. So I'm guessing that Latin classes are becoming less rigorous. If so, why?

I'm also interested in a couple of other methodological issues. First, when was spoken Latin mostly abandoned as a teaching tool? And second, how have macrons been used/not used over the era. I think I might find that spoken Latin was let go early on, and that macrons have wavered over time, being used less and less as time goes on.

If you have any old syllabi, textbooks that aren't available online, or other information, I'd love to see them. Any assistance would be appreciated.

Thank you all for your time.
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Re: Latin Education over the past century

Postby spiphany » Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:36 am

One reference you might find useful for this is the book 25 Centuries of Language Teaching by Louis G. Kelly. This was published in 1969, so the coverage of the 20th century is probably somewhat sparse, but it gives a good sense of the different teaching trends that come and go. It's not exclusively focused on Latin, but since it covers European history from the Roman Empire onwards Latin has a fairly significant role in the book.

I think I'd find that, say, a first-semester Latin class at a university in the early 1900s would cover more material than a first-semester Latin class today, and that the disparity would grow as the level of Latin increased. It seems, for example, that some old high-school-level Latin textbooks from the late 19th and early 20th centuries make Wheelock's look easy. So I'm guessing that Latin classes are becoming less rigorous. If so, why?

There are probably a lot of factors here: changing teaching methodologies, what previous background they have (i.e., if English grammar or other foreign languages are taught in school), how common it is to study the language and what importance is placed on successful acquisition of the language (or what priority it has in relation to other subjects).
There were periods where Latin was considered the primary measure of one's education; you had to know Latin in order to pursue any kind of educated career. Naturally a course taught to students in this context would be rather more intensive than in a period where Latin is viewed as a skill with little or no practical application in the job market.
IPHIGENIE: Kann uns zum Vaterland die Fremde werden?
ARKAS: Und dir ist fremd das Vaterland geworden.
IPHIGENIE: Das ist's, warum mein blutend Herz nicht heilt.
(Goethe, Iphigenie auf Tauris)
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Re: Latin Education over the past century

Postby Hampie » Mon Aug 16, 2010 12:30 pm

Caelius wrote:Salvēte omnēs!

I'm curious how Latin instruction at the high school and university levels has changed since about 1900. I've tried to do some searching via Google but haven't come up with anything really useful except textbooks. Basically, I'd like to see syllabi for Latin instruction throughout that entire era. I think I'd find that, say, a first-semester Latin class at a university in the early 1900s would cover more material than a first-semester Latin class today, and that the disparity would grow as the level of Latin increased. It seems, for example, that some old high-school-level Latin textbooks from the late 19th and early 20th centuries make Wheelock's look easy. So I'm guessing that Latin classes are becoming less rigorous. If so, why?

I'm also interested in a couple of other methodological issues. First, when was spoken Latin mostly abandoned as a teaching tool? And second, how have macrons been used/not used over the era. I think I might find that spoken Latin was let go early on, and that macrons have wavered over time, being used less and less as time goes on.

If you have any old syllabi, textbooks that aren't available online, or other information, I'd love to see them. Any assistance would be appreciated.

Thank you all for your time.

Today latin is a 1-2hours/week thing, back then it was 5-7 hours a week. I also think they made their student put more effort into route learning by heart. "Know these words until tomorrow."
Här kan jag i alla fall skriva på svenska, eller hur?
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Re: Latin Education over the past century

Postby thesaurus » Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:33 pm

I'd recommend Latin: Or The Empire of a Sign by Francois Waquet, translated by John Howe. It is a thorough and provocative history of Latin teaching, and the role of Latin in society more generally, for the last 500 years or so. I don't recall how in depth the discussion of the 20th century is, but it is a good read at any rate, and it really digs into the issues of class, power, and education in western civilization. Reflecting on the history of Latin's place in society is a good exercise is reevaluating our own conceptions and value judgments of the language.

It does give lots of specific information about how classroom instruction and method varied across place and time, discussing what sorts of things students did in the classroom and what levels they may have attained.
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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