Why Study Latin?

Part of what distinguishes our curriculum is the study of Latin, the language of the ancient Romans. In third grade, students being to learn Latin root words, and they continue their formal study of Latin through Upper School.

But why study Latin? There are at least four reasons. The first and most important is that some of the best books in the history of the West are written in Latin. Thomas Jefferson, in proposing a course of study for the state of Virginia, claimed:

“I think the Greeks and Romans have left us the present models which exist of fine composition…I know of no composition of any other ancient people, which merits the least regard as a model for its matter or style. To all this I add, that 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 put into my possession this rich source of delight; and I would not exchange it for anything which I could then have acquired, and have not since required.”

According to Jefferson, reading Latin teaches us good writing, which nourishes the mind and teaches one to love what is well-ordered and beautiful. A second reason to study Latin is the the West—Europe and America—is in large part rooted in Roman civilization. Some of these Latin phrases we easily recognize, such those in our sciences (homo sapiens), in our Constitution (habeas corpus, ex post facto) and in more familiar expressions such as A.D., i.e., and e.g. Further study in Latin teaches us about who we are as the descendants of Western civilization. A third reason is that Latin requires a high degree of discipline and focus. Students who study Latin develop the confidence that comes with hard work and are in turn better prepared to study other romance languages. A final and related reason is that Latin helps students understand English, preparing them to write more clearly and read more closely.

A student must demonstrate competence in Latin I, II, and III. If a student enters the high school having already completed this Latin requirement, he or she must take 3 years (6 semesters) of another foreign language during high school.

In the founding years of the school, modifications to the Latin requirement may be made for students who arrive too late to complete the full three years of Latin. These modifications will be made by permission of the Headmaster.