"Why study Latin?" is certainly the most common question that we entertain each year at our Open House. In recent years the number of schools that offer it, or require it, has increased nationally, and there is good reason for the re-introduction of this discipline into the modern curriculum. Approximately 65% (or more, according to some studies) of English words are derived directly from Latin. A significant amount of original Latin is still in use in law and medicine. The study of Latin grammar and syntax can result in a far better understanding of the mechanics of English and can significantly improve both written and oral communication skills.
Such sweeping generalizations can be debated, but what cannot is the fact that Latin literature has always been the backbone of the Western literary canon. Vergil, Horace, Cicero, Caesar, and Ovid were required reading for some of the world's greatest writers and thinkers. To know them is to gain new insight into Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Voltaire, Swift, Freud, and countless others. To read the Roman historians in the original- like so many of our Founding Fathers- allows our students to understand more fully the governmental system that so influenced our own. Of all the disciplines in the Prep's curriculum, none has so broad an impact. Latin crosses over into and informs nearly every class during a student's day. Perhaps the better question is "Why not study Latin?”
This blog post was written by Mr. Michael Dougherty '93, chair of the Classics Department.