Saturday, March 31, 2012

21st Century Skills

Give me a student who has been taught his Latin grammar, and I will answer for his chemistry. –German chemist Bauer to Francis Kelsey

In my high school, teachers like to talk about giving our students “21st Century Skills.” What they often mean by this phrase is “our students need more ___” (fill in the blank with computer classes, science, math, technology, etc.) However, technology, computers, and science in general are changing so quickly that the material learned one year may not apply to the next. For example, my son Caleb wants to be a video-game programmer. When he started taking classes in this field only two years ago, app development was an emerging field and there were no classes for creating new app's. Now it is a multi-billion dollar market and Digipen is offering its first app development class.

Real “21st Century Skills” are not abilities pertaining to particular technological developments, but rather the ability to think, to adapt, and to solve new problems with whatever technology arises. That is what Latin equips students to do, and that is why even my son Caleb, who wants to study video-game programming, still studies Latin. Latin provides the foundation for critical thinking. That is why the chemist Bauer could say that he did not care if his university students had balanced even one chemical equation in high school: he preferred students who knew their Latin well!

Monday, March 26, 2012

“To read the Latin and Greek authors in their original is a sublime luxury… I thank on my knees him who directed my early education for having in my possession this rich course of delight.” -Thomas Jefferson

Our American founding fathers lived in a culture saturated with the Classics (i.e. Latin and Greek). Most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution could read and write Latin. How many of our legislators could boast the same today? It is difficult to imagine the type of country our founders would have created had they not known so much about the history and government of ancient Rome, from the abuses of its first 7 kings (the last of whom they threw out in 509 B.C., declaring themselves a Republic and electing new leaders every year!), to the prosperity and growth of the Republic for nearly 500 years, to the decadence and power of the Empire for nearly 500 more years. This history permeated the books and classrooms of early America, where preparing for college meant studying Latin and Greek and the respective histories and cultures. What would America look like if the founders hadn’t learned Latin?

This weekend Caleb and Sophie helped me put together this blog to help deliver classroom content a little more efficiently.  Click on the tabs at the top of the page to access different audio and video clips.  I plan to post a new Conversational Latin, LLPSI Grammar and Syntax Video, and flashcards to the page every week for the next year (a little ambitious, perhaps, but I work best with a goal in site). Also, I will post links to our weekly homework on this blog.

Let me know what you think.