Marilyn Hagerty had a nice article on Latin in the Grand Forks public schools. The lead to the article gave it a subversive, underground feeling:
"This past week, I set out to find out about Latin, and I discovered it is alive and well in basement classrooms in Grand Forks Central and Red River high schools."
One can almost envision the equipment filled underbelly of a modern school crammed to the gills with smoking, plotting, brooding Latin students huddled around a charismatic young teacher under a single light bulb. It would seem, however, that the reality is far more rosy...
At Central, [the teacher, Laurie Hollifield] has 46 students in her four classes with three in their fourth year. At Red River, she has 60 with eight in the fourth year. She is happy to have 20 first-year students at Central and 30 freshmen at Red River. And the second-year enrollments of 19 at each school show that more students are sticking with Latin and the classics.
I like the idea that Latin is the foundation of learning, although it has a bit of an overstated feeling to it. In any event, it is good to see that Latin is a thriving. Moreover, it is always heartening to see a member of the media take an interest in Latin and rate Latin in the schools as one of her "causes".
I hope that Ms. Hagerty can someday make Ancient Greek one of her causes as well. We struggle to offer Ancient Greek regularly even at the premier liberal arts university in the state, and most good Latinists know that learning Latin is only half the equation. A solid rooting in Latin requires a good foundation in the Greek language as well. After all, most of the great Latin stylists -- Caesar, Cicero, Tacitus, -- knew and read Greek. Cicero studied in Athens, and Caesar's famous utterance "Alea iacta est" is a quote from Greek comic playwright Menander; Plutarch (Pomp. 60) actually reports that Caesar said it in Greek: Ανερρίφθω κύβος! (And if you can't trust Plutarch on such matters...). Elsewhere, Suetonius reports that Caesar's last words were not the famous Et tu, Brute, but the far more scandalous: "καί σύ τέκνον?" In fact, to my mind the only great stylist who was not comfortable in Greek was probably Augustine in the 4th century A.D., and even in this period, he was probably the exception among the educated elite.
It wasn't that long ago (100 years!) that Professor of Greek and Latin was the academic post held by the greatest President of the University, Webster Merrifield, who not only oversaw the University's most fundamental period of expansion, but also developed the basic liberal arts curriculum that would influence the direction of the University even to this day.
So, while we appreciate the positive attention on the study of Latin, remember Ancient Greek as well!! To support the study of the Ancient World at the University and continue a tradition that dates to its earliest days, contact Michael Meyer at the College of Arts and Sciences and consider making a small gift to the "Cyprus Research Fund" at the UND Alumni Association which supports the study of the ancient world by faculty and students in the Department of History.