Latin education making inroads in inner city Hackney, London

Sunday, October 26, 2008

From Wikipedia: "A busy sunset over Graham Road, Hackney Central (19 September 2005—3 days before the autumnal equinox)"

Here's another article on Latin education from today, this one on Latin education in Hackney. As with most articles, it draws a sharp contrast between the Latin education of today and the dry teaching methods of the past that I've only heard about:

And the zest with which the boys and girls of Year Five are singing out their Latin verbs is in sharp contrast to the leaden tones in which generations of public schoolboys have traditionally chanted their first and second conjugations.

"The children love these lessons," says resident form teacher Bryan Nelder. "They look forward to them beforehand, they talk about them afterwards and they find them extremely valuable in terms of improving their English grammar."

And that's the key to it all. For this lesson is officially timetabled not as Latin, but as Literacy.

That's a good way to put it. In Korea for example the study of hanja (Chinese characters, also known as kanji or hanzi) is really an exercise in Korean literacy, but at the same time is a big stepping stone to learning Chinese later on for those that want to. It's different in the sense that grammar isn't touched upon, so it's more about etymology than studying a foreign language, but in the sense of providing a richer understanding of one's native tongue it's quite similar.

Here's where the money comes from:

"There are many more schools which would like to do it," says Dr Lorna Robinson, founder of the Iris Project, the charity behind the whole idea. "But we don't have the resources." Or the teachers, since the Iris Project has a pool of just 20 to cover the 40 schools.

All are students at either University College or King's College, London, and the money they are paid for their Latin teaching comes from what's called the Widening Participation Fund. This is designed to open up Britain's halls of learning to a less privileged public.

That apart, the scheme is run on unpaid effort. But, just as Hannibal remained undaunted by The Alps, so the Iris volunteers are not put off by lack of cash.

They also publish a quarterly classical studies magazine and run lunchtime Latin In The Park sessions for adults, which earlier this year were the subject of an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, whereby 32 MPs called for these picnics to be rolled out across the nation.


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