Artwork by Ella Benitone
An SMS Spanish student recently described stereotypical Latin students like this: “Latin kids are kind of spoiled, slightly egotistical, cultish and strange.”
Latin is a dead language, or a language that is no longer in everyday spoken use, and because of this, Latin is no longer meant to be spoken, even in Latin classes. Latin, once the language of great poets, philosophers and military leaders, is now associated with the assassination of Julius Caesar, summoning demons and the infamous Latin “scholars” who thinks they are the smartest people in the room.
Dr. Patrick McFadden, Chair of the World Language Department, has been teaching said Latin “scholars” at various institutions since 1994. He explained how the classics community has evolved since the 1919 creation of the American Classical League (ACL), which (according to its mission statement) “celebrates, supports and advances the teaching and learning of the Greek and Latin languages, literature and cultures, and their timeless relevance.” Its founders decided that the classics community should learn how to read Latin “for pleasure and profit.” He also said that Latin helps with binary decision-making, like in Calculus, and it is also correlated with better SAT results.
Along with the ACL, there is also the National Junior Classical League (NJCL), and every St. Mary’s Latin student is part of the Tennessee Junior Classical League (TJCL). Ann Wilson (10) is the editor of the TJCL’s magazine, the Torch. When asked what she loves about Latin, Wilson responded, “The culture and also the people. I’ve met some amazing people through Latin, and the culture is really good within the classics community, especially among high schoolers. Also, everyone is very like-minded. It’s a very nice place to be.”
When asked about the image of the stereotypical, stuck-up Latin student who thinks she is smarter than everyone else, Wilson said, “I would say ‘no’ for the Latin kids I see on a daily basis, but I see this among officers, especially at a national level. When it comes down to the people at Latin Convention who are just there to have fun, that is really not it at all. Most people are just here to share their love of the classics.”
McFadden explained that this stereotype probably came from a time when Latin teaching methods only helped a small number of students, who thought highly of themselves for it. He said, “As usual, the negative stereotype seems to make a bigger impression than the positive.”
The classics aren’t only a study, but a community. It has created new friendships and strengthened pre-existing ones. Some people prefer to learn about the culture, while some legitimately love the language. Many, including Wilson, may have joined because they liked the Percy Jackson books. Many take part in and enjoy classical events, such as the State Latin Convention.
Latin is no longer for stuck-up elitists, but for slightly nerdy kids who want to be part of something. When recounting last year’s National Latin Convention, Wilson said, “Latin is really instantaneous at bringing people together.”
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