To the Friends and Patrons of Classical Learning
₪ ₪ ₪
Great truths always strike us by their simlicity and directness. The egg of Columbus, the sphericity of the earth, the axioms of geometry, and similar truths, are examples of this great principle. In his search after truth, man often misses his way, to wander in barren deserts, until a redeeming thought guides his steps out of the jungle of error back to the light of truth. “New departures” and “reforms” are but returning from complicated error to simple truth.
When the Societas Rugbiana Colloquii Latini Græcique, established for the purpose of introducing and propagating the colloquial method in teaching Latin and Greek, steps before the cultured public with the first Course of its periodical, — the Tusculum, — it proclaims a movement for a total reform in the field of classical studies, and exhibits a method of teaching, and learning, which rivals in simplicity any of those employed so successfully in the modern languages.
All who are familiar with modern classical teaching and learning, feel in their inmost heart that reform is urgently needed; yet at the word “reform” a whole chain of inquiries will arise, which may be grouped in the following classes:
(a) Are the Classical languages worth teaching at all?
(b) What are the faults of modern methods?
(c) What can a reform bring about, and by what methods?
Let it be allowed us to consider these questions separately.
Are the Classical Languages Worth Teaching at All?
This question requires but a brief answer. All modern civilization is based on Roman and Hellenic. Most of our civilized tongues, as French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, etc., are either entirely Latin with some Greek elements, or, as in English and other Germanic tongues, their intellectual and moral part is Latin and Greek. No person of English, French, or German birth can understand his own vernacular unless familiar with Latin.
Science, art, industry, the trades and professions, are so entirely Latin and Greek in their technical terms, that one could much more easily dispense with English, French, and German, than with Latin and Greek. Greek and Latin philosophy; oratory, poetry, history, mythology, idealism, architecture, sculpture, and all that is sublime in them, are still the originals and models for our imitation. Hence, the entire civilized world looks up to these models, and spends ages of time, millions of money, to maintain these most perfect forms of human speech, because they are worthy of being taught.
What are the Faults of Modern Methods?
The faults of modern methods are manifold, namely:
Overvaluing the book-language of particular authors, discriminated one from another; flowery, rhetorical, and poetical Latin and Greek are considered the language, while the real, spoken language is unjustly disparaged, if not despised ad unclassical. Even single words are banished, simply because they may not occur in the comparatively few books which have come down to us. By this injustice the body of the language is ignored, while its adornments are unduly extolled. This fault leads to another, viz.:
Insititutions do not teach Latin and Greek, but Cæsar-Latin, Cicero-Latin, Xenophon-Greek, Homer-Greek, etc., out of which fragments, of course, no living language can be constructed; therefore, no Latin and no Greek is known. Consequently,
As teachers are unable to speak either Latin or Greek, recourse is had to abstract philological speculations, learned comparison of Sanscrit with Greek, scientific dissertations on lost manuscripts, critical notes on peculiarities of authors and phrases, deep researches into philological causes, spelling reforms, and the like, while the language itself remains dead.
Extracts from particular authors are read with the eye without the utterance of a Latin or Greek sentence, by merely reciting the English equivalent of the given text, or translating — into Latin and Greek. Hence, there is no “reading the Classics,” and profiting by the delight and instruction they afford; but the work remains a painful, repulsive drudgery to students and teachers alike. Translating and retranslating extracts from authors, instead of reading their complete works, cannot be the object of “classical” education. As things stand, students may remember a few phrases from Cæsar or from Xenophon, but they cannot ask for even a glass of water in either Latin or Greek.
The Rugbiana method of mastering its lessons is unique. Each pupil (or leader of a class or circle), with pencil or crayon in hand, sketches the illustrations, one after the other, while simultaneously the equivalent Latin or Greek word is pronounced aloud; and the colloquial part must be repeated until, with the thought of , , , etc., the equvalent Latin or Greek sentences rise instinctively to the lips and roll naturally from the tongue. Let not him who fails to follow literally these directions, accuse the Societas of his certain failure; since “Repetitio est mater studiorum,” and this “repetition” must be viva voce. Silent language-work is largely somnolent, and as inefficient as rules for learning to swim; but as if by magic, through this practice, that which at first was Latin or Greek and foreign will become merely an extension of our mother-tongue.
The Rugbian teacher thus must speak Latin or Greek fluently and correctly, without hesitation, and use no other language in the class. His instruction is oral and colloquial; his pronunciation, ancient Roman and modern Greek. Students making use of this method for self-instruction, must read and re-read the Latin text aloud until perfect fluency is gained in uttering each and every word.
The heart and secret of the remarkable success obtained by the Rugbiana method is, that the idea is first given; then, the symbol of expression. And teachers, particularly, must be doubly on their guard that they do not lapse into the diametrically opposite and unnatural course of requiring the pupil to guess or conjecture the meaning from the language. Unusual care must be taken by the teacher’s position, motions, accents, illustrations, and board-work, to spare the class the humiliation and discouragement of uncertainty. Never, under any circumstances, must the pupil be appealed to until, in addition to the above, the teacher has distinctly asked and answered the question. Then, let him encourage the voluble repetition of the same by the class and individuals.