Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Greater Ones

The Latin word translated as "ancestors" or "forefathers" is "majores," which literally means "the greater ones."  I mentioned this fact about one of their vocabulary words to my 8th-grade students last week, and suggested that you can tell a lot about a culture by whether the people in it view their forefathers as greater than themselves, or not.  (Note to self: avoid inviting post-modern teens to an open-ended speculation about the value of previous generations in the last minutes of class.  They have not yet learned to see themselves as dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants.  In fact, they have trouble conceiving of any greater generation than the one which gave us Ipods and PS3's.)

That, it seems to me, is my job: to convince young people that they are part of something larger than themselves, and bring them to a point where they can appreciate it more fully.  Or, failing that, at least understand the difference between a noun and a verb.

The National Latin Exam was given last week.  It's all very strictly controlled and Latin teachers themselves are not allowed to administer the test.  We'll know the results in a month or so.  For the last two years I've had an Intro level student get a perfect score... it's always so fun to receive a personalized letter of congratulations.  I'd love to see that happen at Level 1 or even Level 2, but it's unlikely.  Not because these aren't high-caliber students, but because they are young, especially in comparison to students at other schools who take the test.  They may be whip-smart, but they're not wise.  Not quite yet.

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