Death of a language

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Democritus
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Death of a language

Post by Democritus » Tue Jan 30, 2007 6:21 am

The latest new from Father Foster:

"Pope's Latinist pronounces death of a language"
Yet even though Fr Foster, who has translated speeches and letters for four popes, says he can see no future for the language, he has just launched a new Latin Academy in Rome, near the Pantheon, in his final effort to prevent it from dying out. He hopes to attract 130 students a year, though he will not say how the new school is being funded.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jh ... atin28.xml

He may be throwing down the gauntlet. :)

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Post by Lucus Eques » Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:55 pm

He complains that no one in the Church is studying it — well, how about making it REQUIRED again like it was before Vatican II, and like it is commanded to be by doctrine? I'm not saying do away with the vernacular altogether, just make Latin primary, so that the institution has a common language.

I wrote Fr. Foster a letter when I was in Italy, saying how I was coming to Rome and would like to meet him if only very briefly. I was disappointed not to receive a response.
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Post by Amadeus » Tue Jan 30, 2007 5:25 pm

As a catholic I was just appalled at Fr. Foster's words. :evil: I would not take him seriously, not one bit, because he goes against the desires of Pope Benedict XVI who is bent on reintroducing the Latin Mass of old. What is stopping this new move is the Roman Curia, a rebellious bunch from the 60's. But I'm bettin' that the Pope will get his way, because the Papacy is a monarchy, AND latin is demanded by a Tradition of 1500 years.

Vale! :D
Lisa: Relax?! I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or... Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity! Aaaaa!

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Post by EgoIoYoEu » Tue Jan 30, 2007 6:08 pm

Ecce! Hear hear!

I'm not even Christian, and the Latin Mass is one of the most moving experiences I've ever had! Why would they do away with such a thing?! That's the whole reason I learned Latin the first time...it was my inspiration.

I may not agree with everything the Church does or says, but I certainly appreciate its ancient traditions and roots. The Church surely needs to stay astride of the times, but at the same time...as Wheelock himself said...
We stand on the shoulders of the ancients.
Doing away with the past is killing a part of who we are. To say that Latin is dying in the Church does not bode well for the world...Catholic or nay. It is a sign of lost heritage, lost faith, and a bleak future for those who will come after us. For all its faults and mistakes, intentional or otherwise, no one can deny that the Church was responsible (nearly solely responsible) for the transmission of the knowledge of the ancients during the Dark Age. The Renaissance (IMHO) simply took that preserved wisdom and ran with it.

Admittedly, much of the lost knowledge was due to ecclesiastical oppression and monopoly, but who doesn't see the profundity and merit of St. Augustine, or Jerome, or any of the other Church Fathers. For the Inquisition was the Counter-Reformation. For the Crusades was the rebuilding of Old Jerusalem...the Church and Her ways are a perfect example of humanity. For all its wrongs, there is much right...and perfection exists only in the Divine, for which we must all strive, whatever our belief (or lack thereof).

Their contributions to Western society have defined how we view ourselves, our neighbors, and all facets of life to one degree or another. Many folk (especially my fellow pagans), like to point out the wrongs the Church has committed along the way...but the Church is a body comprised of human beings...capable of erring and straying from the path, just like all of us. But, unlike other humans, the Church always finds its way home, back to the straight and narrow. A shining example of both the depths of human depravity and human excellence and devotion to higher ideals.

Maybe I'm making a mountain of a mole-hill, but to read that Latin perishes breaks my heart, and pains my soul. Too many people have no knowledge of where they come from, or what brought us this far...and this is just one more death knell of greatness amongst too many already.

However, talk is cheap, and the question remains. Those of us who remember...who care about our roots...what are we to do? As for me, I will continue my studies and I will share the wealth of knowledge our predecessors entrusted to us with others...We and those like us, are the last line of defense. If we do nothing, who will? If we say nothing, nothing will be said. I propose a letter, a protest...SOMETHING...to stem the tide. The truest injustice is not the prevalence of evil, but for good men to do nothing in its presence.

Pax Dei vobiscum
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Post by Amadeus » Tue Jan 30, 2007 10:32 pm

Well spoken, EgoIoYoEu. :D You actually moved me!
Lisa: Relax?! I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or... Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity! Aaaaa!

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Post by Episcopus » Tue Jan 30, 2007 10:46 pm

perhaps appreciation of what ancients established for us is not the conscious appreciation of it i.e. learning latin/greek nay rather the fact that it all exists today and fair folk, conscious or not, depend on and live by such foundations - any ancient would surely be proud of this. i say this because perhaps latin should die, since the robots, lacking so in any spirit, studying it at the top level, take whiteoctave and his cohort for example, would make any decent ancient shudder. that's not to mention the english pronunciation of it all, which is a small matter, prae quod supra memoravi, but it seems to me the icing on the cake. i'd rather latin vanish into obscurity than to have it defaced.

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Post by Goals » Wed Jan 31, 2007 12:17 am

In my opinion a language "dies" when it no longer has native speakers.

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Post by EgoIoYoEu » Wed Jan 31, 2007 2:04 pm


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Post by Democritus » Thu Feb 01, 2007 7:45 am

Lucus, would you ever plan to enroll in Foster's school? It might be fascinating.

I would enjoy taking the summer program, but six weeks is a long time.

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Thu Feb 01, 2007 8:01 am

I really should be asleep, but I have a good reason for staying up until midnight tonight. Dang.

So during the last few minutes before midnight, I would like to say I consider that learning these older languages very personally enriching for the individual. As for society as a whole, I think it is important that at least a small segment of the population keep these languages "alive", at least on a minimal level (by minimal level, that means that people can access the old literature and appreciate many of its subtleties, though doubtless many more of its subtleties have been lost to us over the centuries). Why is this important? It keeps today's tradition healtier. I might elaborate more on this when my eyes are not drooping (midnight, are you here yet?)

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Post by ÓBuadhaigh » Thu Feb 01, 2007 4:00 pm

Latin is already compulsory for seminarians of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. I quote from the 1983 Code of Canon Law, presently in force:

Institutionis sacerdotalis Ratione provideatur ut alumni non tantum accurate linguam patriam edoceantur, sed etiam linguam latinam bene calleant necnon congruam habeant cognitionem alienarum linguarum, quarum scientia ad eorum formationem aut ad ministerium pastorale exercendum necessaria vel utilis videatur. (Can. 249)

The issue of this most recent 'Foster outburst' is the recognition of the right (dating from Qua Primum 1570) of all Latin Rite priests to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 edition of the 1570 Missale Romanum. All Latin Rite priests have the right to celebrate the 1969, Missale Romanum in Latin at their will. This was most recently verified in the declaration 'Redemptionis sacramentum' of 2004.

Some people find the ecclesiological emphases of the Old Rite objectionable e.g. Fr Foster. Others find any rite in Latin objectionable. e.g. your average parish priest.

To get to the crunch - in the Catholic Church we do not need more laws, rules and regulations to preserve the knowledge of Latin. What we do need is obedience to the laws both canonical and liturgical, which are already in force.

And let us never forget that the 'reforming' Pope John XXIII gave us 'Veterun Sapientia' on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, and the agenda set out in that document has never been overturned nor, however, has it ever been effected in the mainstream.

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Post by Brian » Thu Feb 01, 2007 5:29 pm

Yes, Latin, the sacred tongue of the Catholic Church is mandated by Pope John's "Veterum Sapientia", the Conciliar Documents "Sacrosanctum Concilium", and "Optatum Totius". But are the bishops listening? No! The bishops are a timid lot and will only do what is "safe". Liturgical negligence won't cost the Church millions in court settlements, but negligence vis a vis the quality of men ordained and placed in parishes will. If Pope Benedict does grant a universal indult to Holy Mass according to the Liturgical books of 1962, it is absolutely essential that he lead the way in celebrating it. This I believe will finally begin to bring a halt to the liturgical hemmoraghing of the past forty years. It is interesting to note that most of the energy behind the return to and movement forward with the Traditional Latin Mass comes from laypeople. This, is very Vatican IIish.

Brian

"...She values especially the Greek and Latin languagues, in which wisdom itself, is cloaked as it were, in a vesture of gold..." Veterum Sapientia 1962

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Post by modus.irrealis » Thu Feb 01, 2007 7:25 pm

Thanks for the article. I kind of liked Fr Foster's attitude -- mostly because I agree with it. I don't really see what the appeal of using an archaic language in liturgical settings is, but I also don't understand how you can be a Catholic theologian or bishop without knowing Latin, since having different people depend on different translations and these people being unable to go directly to the Latin sources seems likely to lead to misunderstandings.

A quick question -- when the Roman Catholic Church puts out a document, does it have an official version, and is that official version always Latin?

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Post by ÓBuadhaigh » Thu Feb 01, 2007 7:49 pm

Yes, there is always always an official version of any Vatican document, although it may take some time to appear. In modern times such official texts appear in the Acta Apostolica Sedis.

No, the definitive version is not always in Latin. If it is intended for the universal Church then, it will very likely be in Latin, but if it has only local relevance it will be in the language of the people(s) to whom it's addressed.

To read the AAS from cover to cover one needs to know Latin, Italian, English, French, German and Portugese - and probably in that order, although I am willing to be corrected on that.

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Post by ÓBuadhaigh » Thu Feb 01, 2007 7:52 pm

Sorry, that should of course be

Acta ApostolicaE Sedis.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa (but with only one strike of the breast for any liturgists out there :wink: ).

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Post by ÓBuadhaigh » Thu Feb 01, 2007 8:08 pm

Hi, Brian,

I agree with your post except where you say the bishops are a timid lot. Perhaps that is true in public life but in the Church, when it comes to opposing Tradition, they are anything but! B16 had to 'phone round members of the French hierarchy personally to remind them of their duty to obedience wrt the coming motu proprio for the traditional rite of Mass. These are the same men who threatened JPII with a mini-rebellion if he tried to do the same. Liturgical blogs and sites are replete with the evidence.

Since 1984, bishops have had the authority given them by JPII to permit the traditional rite, but the majority still refuse to comply with the Holy Father's wishes for a "wide and generous" application of the indult.

On the question of Latin in the liturgy, I believe most bishops are not timid but virulently opposed.

Btw, have you come across this website? Lots of people looking for Latin in the liturgy which is never a bad thing. :D

http://thenewliturgicalmovement.blogspot.com/

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Post by Brian » Thu Feb 01, 2007 8:50 pm

Hi Seán

Yes, I am familiar with The New Liturgical Movement. Once a month I join Mr. Shawn Tribe, founder of the New Liturgical Movement site, and others for our Traditional Latin Mass. About the bishops opposing Pope Benedict, you are correct. But, all the more reason for B16 to aggressively and publically celebrate the tradional Mass. The pontiff has to send the message that the "party" is over. And actions will speak a lot louder that the quiet words in a Motu Proprio, which most bishops will tend to ignore or marginalize. If he doesn't then the bishops won't and if the bishops won't then the priests won't.

Vale for now

Brian

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Post by Goals » Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:32 pm

What are the differences between ecclesiastical and classical Latin?

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Post by Lucus Eques » Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:58 pm

There aren't nearly as many differences between Classical and Ecclesiastical Latin as there are between, say, Middle and Modern English. There is added Greek vocabulary, religious terms, some modernisms, but not a whole lot is very different. Modern Latinists of either sæcular or religious persuasion form their writings on Cicero and/or Aquinas, between whom there are not extreme differences.
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Post by ÓBuadhaigh » Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:06 pm

Hi, Brian.

Yes, all agreed. Let us pray for the Holy Father.

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Post by Kopio » Fri Feb 02, 2007 3:51 am

This is truly a fascinating thread for me, a Protestant. I must admit I have never been to a Roman Catholic Mass, but I have always wanted to attend one in Latin. I have been to an Orthodox Greek church, and I enjoyed the liturgy immensely. Is there a way to find out if there is a Latin Mass in my area (Portland, Or)? I would like to attend one.

FWIW, I have very close Roman Catholic friends whom I count among my dearest brothers in Christ. And I was very thankful when B16 became our pope.

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Post by Goals » Fri Feb 02, 2007 4:35 am

I found a list of Latin Masses in the Pacific Northwest:

http://www.unavoceww.com/mass.html

Portland, OR
St. Brigitta Church (503) 286-3929
Sundays, 8:00 AM
11820 NW St. Helens Rd.
Fr. Joseph Browne browne@up.edu

You should call to make sure that the information is still current.

I would like to observe a Latin Mass, but I think my attendence would be disrespectful considering that I am not religious and do pray.

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Post by Carola » Fri Feb 02, 2007 11:13 am

It's a pity that Christians almost all "ignore" the original languages of the Bible and Latin, which played such an important role in the early church. It is true that we can follow the message without knowing the languages, but it would be most rewarding to have some knowledge.
I sat recently with a friend of mine who is a follower of Islam, whilst he played me a recording of part the Koran (which was all sung). He felt that studying the older, classical Arabic was most important for his understanding. It really made me realise that we perhaps miss a lot of the history and background of Christianity. Even if you aren't particularly religious it is good to understand the historical context.
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Post by decurion » Thu Feb 08, 2007 5:27 pm

I think it's revealing to look at the "demise" of Latin in the context of history.

Look at the hundreds of Latin or Greek works that are lost to us. The greatest period of loss in terms of classical litterature happened, I figure, sometime from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the Carolingian Renaissance, ca. 300-600 AD, and it disappeared not in any single great cataclysmic event--there were libraries all over the Mediterranean--but I would conjecture it happened more through cultural disintrest at the time. People just didn't care to recopy the Annales of Ennius, or Claudius' encyclopedic, 20-volume work on the Etruscans, because those subjects no longer held any interest or use for society and so were forgotten. Importance preserved some (Vergil), chance preserved others (Catullus, Tacitus, the letters of Cicero), for a time when people did begin to care again, and then, boom, the Renaissance happens: ideas and inventions are promulgated at a rate never before seen in history, all influenced in some way by the rediscovery of classical litterature. And we're still rediscovering texts... the sands of Egypt, as well as the carbonized scrolls of Herculaneum may yet hold hope.

I would think sometimes that we're on the verge of another 'dark age,' not technologically really, but culturally, in that society at large feels that since classical learning, the study of Latin and Greek, is not 'useful' or 'interesting,' and it must be phased out of most educational curricula (as it already has), destined to oblivion, or relegated to the province of remote, harmless antiquarian scholars. But the primary guardian of classical learning nowadays is, I think, the internet, and sites like textkit which enable anyone who so wishes to learn Latin and Greek and to participate in the experience of classical learning and rediscovery.

Classical learning survived the last storm of cries of "useless" 1700 years ago, albeit at a great loss. I'm sure the Latin language will continue to persevere, no doubt due in part to the efforts of individuals here, all who instruct, learn, and even preserve classic Latin & Greek textbooks themselves almost lost to the public.

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Post by EgoIoYoEu » Thu Feb 08, 2007 6:21 pm

Salve!

Well said, my friend. Well said.

Honestly, being of a generation accustomed to technological amenities, I did not look at that. How did I miss it?

You are absolutely correct in your surmisation, methinks. Not only does technology preserve the precious Classic treasure we've recovered, it will also promulgate it! Ah the wonders of technology! Anyone with a drive and a notion can learn the languages, and read the works written in those languages. It would seem the posterity of the Classics is assured (as much as anything can be). However, what of interest? The material may be there, but what about apathy? How do we counter it? I too have concluded we are nearing an event horizon in which all that makes us rational and deep beings will be spurned.

I have few friends who could care any less about the Classics. Far more interesting are modern music, film and other...distractions. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy these too...but I know they are only distractions, not the end-all be-all of life.

Our attention spans grow shorter, our knowledge base smaller, and our profundity as thinking beings undermined by "pop culture." We're into fast food, instant gratification, and split-second internet connection. We, as a culture, have lost patience and endurance. We have become weaker in our minds as well as our bodies. Who can deny these things? While our knowledge of science and technology grows, those who know the inner workings of such things shrinks. We only learn enough to earn a hefty salary, or get that all-important degree. No one asks why, or how.

So, while our civilization advances, our people grow disinterested. No one cares about exploration of the past, or self-actualization, or sapienta pro sapientiae gratia. We live in a fast, selfish, apathetic world. We, my friends, are a dying breed. And while our Classics endure, they still die because no one cares. But, gratias Deo, we won't lose any of it, and maybe a later generation will care.
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Post by decurion » Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:50 pm

EgoIoYoEu, well said, if I may return the compliment. However I would say that popular diversions have always been one of the chief concerns of man, no matter what age. A society, I figure, can be the most quickly affected by the decisions of its authorities, which, down the road, become accepted norms (like the Income Tax for example). In my opinion, the "death" of Latin, in a mere 50 years (say 1910-1960) could only have been accomplished by the introduction of pragmatism as a foundationial philosophy of education, furthered by early 20th century social scientists like John Dewey. It's come to a point where education (at least in the US) cannot rationalize having "useless" subjects like history or music, or, more importantly (in my opinion) Latin. Rather, like you pointed out, education is now a mere tool to achieve your goals, a "degree" to get a well-paying job to live comfortably. There have been far more teachers, more 'educatiors' in my life who have touted getting a good job, profitting from your knowledge and skills, than those who say you should seek understanding for it's own sake. It's a bad notion--and an attractive one--that success, material or not, should be the central value of one's life, instead of a happy side-effect. quicquid id est, I fear the Dept. of Education more than my friends' fondness for MTV.
But that's just my two cents.

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Post by Carola » Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:27 am

Yes, Decurion's comment is all too true:
Rather, like you pointed out, education is now a mere tool to achieve your goals, a "degree" to get a well-paying job to live comfortably.
But I wonder if current events - global warming finally catching up with us and such unrest in the Middle East - might make people take a long hard look at their materialistic yet unsatisfying lives and start to think about learning for its own sake and that there might be more to life than owning the widest TV set possible. Of course not everyone will think this way, but it would be good to see some young talented people choosing more academic subjects and worrying less about that job in investment banking.
I know we all have to earn a living (unless we are very lucky) but there is a balance. Sometime it takes some bad times to make us see what is really important - and that money won't buy it.
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Post by EgoIoYoEu » Sun Feb 11, 2007 3:04 pm

Decurion said:
I fear the Dept. of Education more than my friends' fondness for MTV.

Touché. In order to solve a problem, one must first find the problem's cause. You've hit it right on the nose. Education of the youth (and the senex, for that matter) is a responsibility carried by the Department of Education. They are failing in their prime requisite, to my way of thinking.

So, the question remains...what to do about it? How does one change the flow of an entire society? Not alone, I would say. It will take the combined effort of many - discipulusque magister - to effect any change.

Carola said:
Of course not everyone will think this way, but it would be good to see some young talented people choosing more academic subjects and worrying less about that job in investment banking.

I know we all have to earn a living (unless we are very lucky) but there is a balance. Sometime it takes some bad times to make us see what is really important - and that money won't buy it.
There you have it. The future of education lies where it always has, in the hands of our youth. If we teach our children to love learning, for its own sake, then they will carry that forward into their adult lives. Children provide the best hope. They are our posterity, our legacy, and suffer for our mistkaes. So, I guess the best solution is for educated and erudite people to HOME SCHOOL! haha! Being only 23, I do not feel the time is right for children, but when I do have them...I will not let them become "mainstream." Over my dead body.
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Post by edonnelly » Sun Feb 11, 2007 3:31 pm

EgoIoYoEu wrote: Education of the youth (and the senex, for that matter) is a responsibility carried by the Department of Education.
No -- education is a responsibility for local government (as well as parents/families, of course). The Department of Education is just another example of the federal government sticking its nose into places where it does not belong.
The lists:
G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library

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Post by EgoIoYoEu » Sun Feb 11, 2007 6:59 pm

edonnelly said:
No -- education is a responsibility for local government (as well as parents/families, of course). The Department of Education is just another example of the federal government sticking its nose into places where it does not belong.
I'm inclined to disagree. If we (Americans, that is) purportedly have a government "for the people, by the people," then I would say that it is not only proper that they are involved - but obligatory. Not at their whim, of course, but with regards to the needs and desires of the governed. I can say that I disagree with the current state of affairs with government regulated education, but I will not say that they should completely extricate themselves either. Funding, support, and improvement should be their goals - not a wholesale control over what happens in schools.

Think how it would be without it. Students learning completely different things, with no common ground at all...chaos. One student knows college level calculus, while another can't do simple functions. Madness. Such structure is a necessary evil, I fear.
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Post by thesaurus » Sun Feb 11, 2007 9:29 pm

At the risk of sounding unpopular, I'd like to suggest that everyone is being too reactionary regarding the decline of Latin and the classics in school. As with everyone else here, I value the study of Latin, Greek, and the classics. However, I don't claim that everyone should study these languages. Is there a benefit? To be sure, but there are also benefits to studying lots of other subjects that I wilfully ignore. Personally, I often ignore math in favor of literature and languages. Ideally we would all study everything valuable, but this is neither possible nor very useful for most people.

My point is that the decline in the study of Latin and the classics is unfortunate, but not an irrevocable damage to our society. I think the classics can still be of value in translation, and that learning the original languages is an extra value for those who have the time and love of the subject. The decline of classics in general is, in my mind, a more significant issue. However, as with all interesting and thought provoking subjects, there will will always be a certain number of the new generation who choose to pursue the classics and similar subjects. Personally, I had very little exposure to the classics in highschool, and no exposure to Latin or Greek. Like many of you, what I've learned of this subject I've learned on my own, sometimes choosing to study it in college, other times learning it myself in my spare time. There will always be some who do this.

As a final thought, I think it's worth remembering that while we here on textkit love and study the classics not everyone shares our interests. Likewise, there are many interests we do not hold in common that are both interesting and valuable to others. I think this diversity of interests is a good thing. It fosters a wide variety of interests, activities, and knowledge.

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Post by decurion » Sun Feb 11, 2007 10:20 pm

The United States managed to educate its children without the oversight of the Dept. of Education for the first 200-odd years of its history (it only began operations in 1980), and without any "chaos." I hardly know anything about the circumstances of its inception and implementation, i.e., why Congress decided it was a good idea. As for my ignorance I can't offer the excuse that I wasn't alive at the time (I'm a child of the '80s), but perhaps someone else with more understanding of the situation could explain.
I think it's all a joke, in terms of my own experience and what I hear from others: standardized testing, teacher "accreditation," και τα λεπτα. The accreditation process itself is a shame and drastically reduces the pool of enthusiastic and knowledgeable people who would want to teach, but can't because they didn't want to go through the Ed. school drivel.
And even with the Dept. of Ed, students still come out of the same school at widely varying levels (some with calculus under their belts, some still at remedial math).

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edonnelly
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Post by edonnelly » Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:28 am

EgoIoYoEu wrote:Think how it would be without it. Students learning completely different things, with no common ground at all...chaos. One student knows college level calculus, while another can't do simple functions.
You ARE kidding, right? Are we living in the same country? Right now many high school graduates test out of a full year of college while others are barely literate. What is it that you think the DoE is accomplishing?
The lists:
G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library

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Post by Carola » Mon Feb 12, 2007 3:05 am

It's not just in the USA that these things happen - one of our large high schools has just announced (and right in the first week of our academic year!) that students planning on doing some subjects (pure maths and music were among them) will have to find another school as they won't teach them any more. Most of the subjects seemed to be those appealing to the more academic students - obviously these students aren't wanted in our state schools any more. And of course only rich people have brainy children and they can afford private schools.
Roll on "Brave New World".
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Post by EgoIoYoEu » Mon Feb 12, 2007 1:40 pm

Heu! Sorry, all. Didn't mean to bring your flaming arms of vengeance to bear. Let me backpeddle a bit. I think I was a bit ambiguous in my wholesale support of governmental involvement in education. Now that I read it, I too would turn on the burners.

To put it simply. Governmental involvement in education is necessary, but should not exceed aught more than the endowment of funding. Is that better? lol.

I too hate standardized testing, ACT's, SATs, et cetera, ad infinitum. Modern education is a joke. I'm all for a complete 180. Bring back Classical Education. Well-rounded, in-depth, and infinitely more useful to the thinking person.

Anyone ever read any Susan Bauer?? A wonderful proponent of a return to Classical education. I'm with Decurion in this one. Screw modern teaching methods, bring back Classicism.

NB: Education is probably the most important issue, but see my first post in this thread for a holistic break-down of why I think Latin and Greek (and Classics in general) are on the decline, when it ought to be opposite.
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Post by thesaurus » Mon Feb 12, 2007 4:46 pm

What are the components of a classical education, and how is it superior to contemporary education?

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Mon Feb 12, 2007 5:28 pm

EgoIoYoEu wrote:Our attention spans grow shorter, our knowledge base smaller, and our profundity as thinking beings undermined by "pop culture." We're into fast food, instant gratification, and split-second internet connection. We, as a culture, have lost patience and endurance. We have become weaker in our minds as well as our bodies. Who can deny these things?
I can deny these things. MUAHAHAHAHAHA!

Throughout Western history post fall of the Roman empire, only a small fraction of the population has at anytime gone into in-depth study of the classics. Through the Renaissance, most of the population was illiterate. They weren't stupid, and some of them were very knowledgeble in various ways, but they hardly studied the classics. And I think they probably liked instant gratification as much as we do - they just didn't have as much access to it, we don't have as much of a record of it, and what records we do have are not that interesting to us because the bulk of "pop culture" is very forgetable. And frequently those who were studying the classics were not interested in self-enrichment but in attaining some type of social status (much as today many people go to college to get a degree, not to learn). I think the truth is, and it's not a very happy truth, that there have throughout history only been a limited amount of people who are really interested in devoting the great effort it takes to master the classical languages in order to reap the benefits, and that it has not changed.

Now, I belong to a number of intellectual circles, and I have heard a lot of people say "Most people never think about the meaning of life, or reflect on their own lives, or ponder about what is truly valuable." The thing is, I would like to meet somebody who has never reflected on their own life, and who has never delved into serious introspection. Granted, some people are better at it than others, but I don't think I have ever met anybody (well, not anybody older than 4 years old, and who was not mentally handicapped) who has NEVER pondered their lives in a philosophical manner. I may be sheltered because, as I say, I spend a lot of my time in intellectual circles, and I live in the richest nation on earth. But even when I engage in conversations with total strangers I meet on the street, if we really discuss something beyond "Do you know how to get to the ---- ?" I find that they have reflected on life. So I challenge you to give me a specific time period and place where the culture had "more patience and endurance", and where THE POPULATION AS A WHOLE (not a group of individuals) was significently stronger in the mind, and PROVE IT.

Oh, you'll probably point out the Ancient Greek and Roman period. The Romans are pretty easy to pick on, seeing as they built coliseums where the masses could enjoy watching gladiators fighting with bulls or whatever (talking about instant gratification), among other pop culture things which resulted in instant gratification. The Greeks - the Greeks were extraordinary. On the other hand, I believe a lot of their literature came from the extraordinary individuals responding to the problems they percieved in their own culture.

Now, having just seriously countered your "My god we're so degenerate, and the past was so wonderful" argument, I will allow that there is some truth to what you say. Children do develop more attention span disorders than before, and scientific studies have directly linked this to television. And most people do think of themselves living in a head attached to a body rather than living in a body, which (I personally think) leads to a bunch of problems. On the other hand, life spans have dramatically improved compared to many periods in time (though, notably, it was not unusual for somebody to reach their 70's in Ancient Greece). However, whenever somebody comes up with this "We are so degenerate, and the decline of the classics is why!" rhetoric without backing it up with proof, I generally think it comes from romantic feeling rather than from careful consideration. If you can prove otherwise, well, prove otherwise.

On the whole Modern Education thing - I'm not as allergic to standardized tests as some people here (though the SATs and ACTs are pretty useless, a fact many colleges are realizing, since the SATs and ACTs are growing less important in college admissions decisions every year), but I'm not so fond of them that I'll devote a lot of energy defending them either. And for a variety of reasons, I think education is best handled by the local government, with assistence from the state government, and very little interference from the national government.

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Post by edonnelly » Mon Feb 12, 2007 5:57 pm

GlottalGreekGeek wrote:since the SATs and ACTs are growing less important in college admissions decisions every year
Is this really true? I would suspect they are becoming more important, because there is a definite trend among schools towards grade inflation. I see this happening at least in medical schools. I'm on a committee that selects applicants for residency positions, and medical schools are so prone to grade inflation (or worse yet switching to entirely pass/fail grading) that there is less and less objective data coming from the school itself. Grades are so watered-down you can't tell who really is a good student and who is just average. Unfortunately, that forces us to rely even more heavily on standardized testing (medical board scores, in our case) for selection criteria.
The lists:
G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Mon Feb 12, 2007 6:25 pm

From all of the college prep stuff which was rammed down my throat during my last two years of high school, the SATs/ACTs are growing less important for undergraduate programs. Colleges have discovered that students who get good grades and good test scores are frequently very boring. They'll just take classes, get good grades, and leave. Colleges would rather have students who start clubs, innovate, write poetry, start revolutions, etc (though when students start *real* revolutions...), even if they're test scores aren't that impressive. And most importantly, colleges want students who will love the college. This means that a) if they admit the student, the student is more likely to come, increasing yield and b) they will generally make the college a cooler place c) they will take college seriously. Colleges are also interested in increasing "diversity" - and there is a whole lot behind THAT which I will not begin to go into. So there is increasing emphasis on extracurricular activities and writing good application essays to show that you are a unique student with a personality. Oh, and what's even more important than grades are schedules. If you have a 4.3 GPA but didn't take challenging classes, they'll take the student with a 3.3 who did take a challenging course load. And they look at the subjects - for example, if you plan to major in math, the colleges will get very suspicious if you did not take ANY math course in the last two years of high school. Whereas, if somebody wants to major in classics (which already increases chances of being admitting, since classics professors are hard-pressed to get enough classics majors, and professors can often influence admissions), and has taken 4 years of Latin, it's a sign that the person is really serious, even if they didn't always get A's in Latin.

Now, the one standardized test which is becoming more important is the SAT II. That's because it's subject specific, so it reflects the student's strength in a particular subject (colleges are particularly interested in how a student performs on the SAT II in the subject they intend to major in). It's also supposed to be a better reflection of what the student actually learned in high school.

Oh, and the college I'm attending doesn't use SATs or ACTs in admissions at all. So. Yeah. In my case, the only SAT/ACT which helped me was the SAT II French which helped me ditch one awful high school French class.

EDIT : How could I forget to mention the most important point - colleges have noticed that the SATs and ACTs are not really that good at predicting college success.

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Post by EgoIoYoEu » Mon Feb 12, 2007 6:45 pm

Wow! Thanks Glottal! All kinds of gems in your contribution! Heh. At least you received some college prep. material. This is a good example of the disparity issue. My high school didn't offer hardly anything at all. The ACT was the only test available, and the SAT was ignored. AP classes were a joke (I scored a five on the AP Spanish test with mononucleosis. Sad thing is, in rural Kentucky where I live...my score is and was the highest ever. I graduated five years ago. How sad is that? Schools here are pathetic. :P)

College didn't improve matters. All those innovative changes and adaptations to learning colleges are pursuing which Glottal noted for us must be for those of you who are NOT living in the Twilight Zone.

Sadly, to enter the college nearest me (for the morbidly curious www.wku.edu) all you need is a modest sum of money and a pulse. This school is state funded, by the by, and is one of the worst excuses for "higher education" I have ever seen in all my 8,536 days. The closest they get to "Classics" is Western Civ., Hebrew, Old Testament, and really crappy philosophy classes that teach you nothing but facts. Free thinking? What's that?

I chose this school as it is a prime example of the inequality present in (per Carola) the world. I'm not sure what university you're talking about, Glottal, but I would love to go there. Then maybe I'd see what a real university is like.
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