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Scroll to the bottom of the to view and listen to our audio slideshow. The Mountain School is looking for a new Latin teacher for next year.
Every semester, 40 or so high school juniors from around the country trek to Vershire for a term in the woods. And of every new crop of students, five or six want to take Latin.
But demand remains unchanged. As foreign language education has declined in recent years, Latin has struggled to hold onto its place in the classroom. Where it is still taught, Latin is often viewed as a subject solely for the college bound, a view that some teachers feel is not only wrong-headed, but an example of how education is broken. Latin is unchanging and rewards the sort of rote learning that has fallen out of fashion, Barker said.
While 60 percent of English words trace their roots to Latin, the rudiments of the ancient language are much different.
Latin nouns, for example, fall into five different declensions. To write or translate Latin, a student has to understand the six grammatical cases that are applied to and change the form of the nouns. For example, a noun in the nominative case is generally the subject of a sentence, while the accusative case corresponds to the direct object.
While Latin was once widely taught, it has been on the decline for a century. The percentage of high schools with foreign language programs that offered Latin fell from 20 percent in to 13 percent inaccording to the most recent report from the Center for Applied Linguistics.
Now, most of the students steered toward Latin are on the college track. But only a handful of public schools do so, among them the high schools in Hanover, Lebanon, Woodstock and Woodsville, as well as Kearsarge. Studying Latin, teachers said, builds the vocabulary required to excel on the verbal Scholastic Aptitude Test and als to college admissions officers a certain seriousness of scholarly intent. But it has other benefits that could apply more broadly. Latin also provides a link to a 2,year-old culture, one that established the first republican government and produced great art, writing and architecture.
Latin is still a pervasive presence in American life. The current economy and the current educational policy environment have been hostile to Latin. With so much riding on annual standardized tests, schools have emphasized reading and math, at times to the detriment of foreign languages. That is to say, it disciplines the mind by forcing it to pay attention to details relentlessly.
Latin exercises the memory while engaging the imagination — a powerful connection for learning and mind-shaping.
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List of Latin-script letters