A radical new Latin coursebook is indeed a rare notice – even rarer that it survives into a fifth edition after 50 years of exposure to the rigors of the classroom. Your award for the Cambridge Latin Course (British School Latin Course revised to reflect the diversity of the Roman world, July 10) allows me to pay tribute to the colleagues who took the opportunity in 1966 of a scholarship from the Nuffield Foundation, soon to be completed by the School Council, to once again ask the vexatious question: “What is the use of learning Latin?
Their response was, “Learning to read original Latin literature and understanding some of the values it imparted to the making of Western civilization.”
Today, that seems pretty obvious; at the time it was somewhat controversial, in a climate still governed by grammar and learning to write elegant Latin phrases. I still cherish the remark of a student at a public girls’ high school, who had just completed a first edition of the new Latin course and had passed her O level, when she told her teacher, “I appreciated this course and the exam because he treated me like a thinking adult. I expect the new edition to continue to do so.
First Director of the Cambridge School Classics Project
Your post about the redesign of the Cambridge Latin Course reminded me of when I was learning Latin in school. At the time, students who completed three A-levels were encouraged to add an additional O-level alongside them. Since our subjects were modern languages, a friend and I opted for Latin. We were the only two in sixth grade to do so, and our teacher, fresh out of normal school, was visibly at the end of her tether facing two recalcitrant 17-year-olds.
Eventually, with enviable ingenuity, she purchased a Latin translation of Winnie the Pooh with the original illustrations, titled Winnie Ille Pu, and we were hooked from the first line: “Ecce Eduardus Ursus scalis nunc tump-tump-tump occipite pulsating gradus post Christophorum Robinum descends.
In the end, I was the only one who showed up for the exam, but the fact that I could proudly show off a C in Latin I attribute to Eduardus Ursus.
Cowes, Isle of Wight