Latin, that is. So says Evan Colby, the only student in the world who earned a perfect score on the AP Latin exam last year. And if you ask him how Latin is different from (Not than - please, Evan) everything else that he has studied, he will probably tell you what he recently told the News and Observer, “I like the rules that came with it.”
He’s right again, I suspect. We don’t hear a lot about the importance of rules in education these days, but some very talented students, I believe, are attracted to Latin and Greek because the ancient languages have such distinctive structures to express meaning. Sure, they are hard to master for an English speaker. They take discipline, and for some students that is part of their appeal. They reward disciplined study by making it possible to live a more disciplined life. What’s more they have a jackpot: master the rules, learn the vocabulary and you win a free trip back a couple of thousand years, and when you get there, you can understand what people are saying and thinking. What a deal!
Evan’s comments remind me that we shouldn’t try to hide from students that Latin and Greek require disciplined learning. They are a Marine Corps boot camp for serious students. We shouldn’t try to make them look like English, or Spanish, or Film Studies or other fine and edifying subjects. That’s not what they are. These languages are different. They demand discipline and they reward it.