Writers demand return of Latin to curriculum to end Labour's 'discrimination' of classics
By Laura Clark
The sound of 'amo, amas, amat' being chanted by children learning Latin has long since faded from most of our classrooms. But not, perhaps, for much longer. A group of writers and broadcasters including Ian Hislop and Sir Tom Stoppard is calling for the return of Latin to the curriculum. They are urging ministers to end Labour's 'discrimination' against the language of the Romans and give it the same status as French, German and Spanish. A group of writers and broadcasters, including Ian Hislop, are urging ministers to end Labour's 'discrimination' against the language of the Romans They are backing a report, published today, by two Oxford University classics scholars which makes the case for a revival of Latin in primary and secondary schools. The experts say that studying Latin not only makes it easier for children to pick up other languages, it also improves their English and maths. Those who learn Latin at primary school use more complex sentences and have a wider vocabulary than those who don't, it is claimed. They are also better at problem-solving and logical thinking.
The report, by the Politeia think-tank, calls on Education Secretary Michael Gove to give Latin the same status as modern foreign languages in primary schools. They should be able to choose to teach it in the same way they can offer French, German, Spanish, Urdu or Arabic.
IT'S HARDLY VIRGIL, BUT . . .
Here are some modern phrases translated into Latin by Professor Christopher Pelling, one of the report's authors:
Can Wayne Rooney win England the World Cup?
Potestne Guenius Rooneius poculum universale nobis reportare?
Where's the barbecue summer we were promised?
Ubi est aestas coquis hortulanis accommodata quam nobis promisisti?
My lottery numbers still haven't come up.
Tesserulae meae semper infelices.
Can you give me directions to the town hall please?
Ubi est curia municipalis? Velisne mihi monstrare viam?
Labour specified that primaries should teach only modern languages when it issued guidance to heads on fulfilling a new duty to ensure seven-year-olds learn a foreign language.
A statement has been signed by ten writers, broadcasters or teachers including Hislop, the Private Eye editor and a panellist on the BBC quiz Have I Got News For You, playwright Sir Tom and Inspector Morse author Colin Dexter.
It says: 'We ask that the new Secretary of State gives Latin the same opportunity and official blessing as other foreign languages in the curriculum.'
An Education Department spokesman said Latin is 'an important subject', but is not classified in the national curriculum as a modern language because pupils 'are not able to interact with native Latin speakers'.
From The Independent June 14 2010
Primary schools 'should teach Latin'
By Alison Kershaw, Press Association
Primary school pupils should be given lessons in Latin, a think-tank said today.
The ancient language should be granted the same status as modern languages such as French, German and Spanish, according to a pamphlet produced by Politeia.
From September next year all primary schools will be required to teach pupils a modern foreign language from the age of seven.
The pamphlet, by Oxford classicists Professor Christopher Pelling and Dr Llewelyn Morgan, argues that Latin will help youngsters with written and spoken English, maths, and to learn other languages.
It says: "We want our children to be confident in their ability to speak to British and non-British people, and to feel comfortable in a diverse and evolving world, and at the heart of that aspiration is linguistic sophistication.
"We want them to be alive to the significance of our country's past, and motivated to study the literature which preserves and celebrates that past. We also want our kids to be taught by a highly qualified and passionate cadre of educators. We want them to fly high. To all of that Latin is the key."
The document, entitled Latin For Language Learners: Opening Opportunity For Primary Pupils, calls for Education Secretary Michael Gove to allow Latin the same support as modern languages in primary schools.
It proposes: "If the new Government decides to accept the status quo, i.e. most primary schools are already teaching a foreign language, the Secretary of State should ensure that Latin is given the same status as other foreign language options.
"This would mean including Latin as a primary foreign language option in statutory measures or non-statutory guidance."
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "There is no veto on primary schools teaching Latin, it is for schools to decide whether it should be included in their curriculum.
"Latin is an important subject and is valuable for supporting pupils' learning of modern languages. It can provide a very useful basis for study across a range of disciplines.
"It is however not classified in the national curriculum as a modern language as pupils are not able to interact with native Latin speakers or study/visit parts of the world where Latin is spoken as a native language."