Classical Education: Is it really necessary to study ancient language?

With so much talk about classical education in the edusphere, an increasing trend is noted toward a classical style of education as opposed to, say, actual learning of ancient languages.  But does one need to study classical languages, Greek and Latin, to engage in a classical curriculum?   For example at well known Ridgeview Classical Academy, the website states,

Ridgeview remains classical by upholding the same standards of teaching, of curriculum, and of discipline found in the schools of old. Indeed, we teach English as a classical language. Ridgeview thus takes stock in the “tried and true” rather than in the latest fads popping out of the nation’s schools of education.

Meanwhile, Hillsdale College’s Charter School Initiative says yes … in a excerpt from A Classical Education for Modern Times, by Terrence O. Moore:

“Unlike the old classical schools, today’s classical schools do not make the medium of instruction Latin and Greek (though to be classical they must require the study of Latin at some point).

The good thing about a classical education is that the foundation is all there:  in history, you can just look it up . So in regard to the question, whether one can have classical education without classical language, I propose we consider the past:

The history of classical education typically includes the following moments:

Ancient Greece

Ancient Rome

Medieval Europe

Renaissance Italy

England from the Renaissance to World War II

America from the Revolution to World War II

All of these but the first emphasized the teaching of foreign language.  All except the first two emphasized Latin as a second language.   (Roman school, of course, offered Latin as a first language and Greek as the second).  So why might some in the classical school movement wish to dispense with the requirement to study foreign language, and specifically Latin?  The reason is simple: Because it’s very difficult to teach foreign language effectively in the modern world with the currently available methods, doubly so with a language with no native speakers.  What to do about this?  Should we emphasize classical methods instead of classical language, or perhaps figure out how to master classical language instruction?  The question begs a further blog post … later.



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