Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Popularity of Latin Study

Thanks to Dave Lull for drawing my attention to Winnie Hu, "A Dead Language That's Very Much Alive," New York Times (Oct. 7, 2008), a rare piece of good news these days, about the growing popularity of Latin study in American schools. I was surprised to read that "scarce Latin teachers have become more sought-after than ever." I would jump at the chance to teach Latin. But an administrator for the Minneapolis public schools once told me I was unqualified to teach Latin in high school, because I had never taken any education courses.

The New York Times article quotes a high school principal named Don Conetta:
"If my Latin teachers could hear me now," he said. "I took three years in high school, and four semesters in college, and I can't remember the first line of Cicero's orations."
Mr. Conetta's statement seems odd to my pedantic ear — it would make more sense to say, for example, "I can't remember the first line of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address," than "I can't remember the first line of Lincoln's speeches." Probably the most famous first line of any of Cicero's orations is from the first Catilinarian:
How long, Catiline, will you abuse our patience?

Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra?
A few months ago I saw a bumper sticker on a car in the parking lot of a hardware store that read:
Quo usque tandem abutere, W, patientia nostra?
W stands for Dubya, the nickname of President George Walker Bush, also known as Agricola Ambulator Arbuscula. The answer to the question "Quo usque tandem abutere, W, patientia nostra?" is 104 days and counting down.

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