Struggle is among the most important elements in the learning process. Learning a new thing—whether Greek, knitting, or fly-tying—is hard work and requires some pain if it is to be done well. Think of it this way: after learning something new, one is not the same person he was before he learned the new thing; he has undergone a metamorphosis. That process of change necessarily comes with some struggle and pain.
Even though we are barely halfway through the school year, this is enrollment season, and classes are already filling up for next year. Families are touring the school, meeting with our admissions counselor, and drawing comparisons between classical Christian and other models. At Trinitas our kindergarten classes are nearing full and we have accepted a few students for other open seats in the grammar school. The grammar school is where most of our effort to bring in new students is focused. There are two other natural entry points for schools: seventh and ninth grades. While we do accept students in those grades occasionally, it can be difficult to enter a classical school that late in one’s academic career, especially as late as ninth grade.
Recently our school celebrated what we call the Night of Recitation. It is a twenty year old tradition that has a different theme each year. Imagine every class from Junior Kindergarten to the Seniors performing a short skit or reciting some piece of excellent prose or poetry—and not only every class, but every student in every class. Why do we do it? Why do we ask our students to recite in public? Recitation is a valuable and important aspect of a classical education. It helps students develop excellent rhetorical skills, it gives them almost immediate feedback on their hard work, and it challenges their fear of speaking in public.
We classical educators are sometimes questioned about why we teach Latin and Greek to 21st century students, and so I have used this space from time to time to offer an apologia for teaching those classical languages. And more of that is exactly what I intend to do now. Someone will protest and say, “Why do we need this explained to us again?” It is always good to be reminded why we do good things.
The benefits of learning Greek as a tool to sharpen one's mental abilities cannot be overstated.
“I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honor, and Greek as a treat.” -Winston Churchill
This quote from Churchill at times can be taken out of context. It would appear that Churchill spoke of Latin as the cognitive sharpening tool of the clever. But a more careful reading would show that Churchill understood that both Greek and Latin were excellent tools for cognitive development.
Classical educators are frequently asked why we teach “dead languages.” At Trinitas, we teach both Latin and Greek as part of our core curriculum, and we believe to do otherwise would make us something other than classical. We don’t cling to these languages out of some foolish consistency or for the sake of keeping up classical appearances. No, we cling to them for their unparalleled value as educational tools.