Latin I course returns to Upper School


Afraaz Malick

Latin teacher Kim Dickson teaches the School’s first ever Latin I class.

Olivia Doan and Afraaz Malick

In Wes Anderson’s 1998 film Rushmore, the school (modeled after St. John’s) announces that Latin will no longer be taught. Max Fischer, a sophomore, starts a petition drive to save the language. When his efforts prove successful, he tells a romantic rival, “I saved Latin. What did you ever do?”

This year, Latin I has returned as an available course in the Upper School. Latin teacher Kim Dickson now teaches the introductory Latin course in addition to Latin II, Latin III and AP Latin.

Unlike Spanish, French and Chinese, the primary goal of Latin is to read, not speak. Students may speak English in the Latin classroom, assessments are written in English, and there are no listening exercises. Contrasting Latin with other world language classes would be like comparing pommes and naranja.  

Freshman Zayn Malik, who takes Latin I, says that Latin requires more memorization than other languages.

“Principal parts are the different forms in which a word can occur,” Malik said. “Each verb has four principal parts, each representing a grammatical form.”

Although learning a language at a younger age is typically easier, starting Latin in high school is not necessarily a disadvantage because fluency is not the primary goal. Even Dickson did not start learning Latin until she was in college.

“It’s not bad to have older students that are taking Latin,” Dickson said. “It is complicated; it’s not all about communicating.”

I really look forward to going to Latin because of how flexible and enjoyable it is.”

— Zayn Malik

The Latin I class only has four students, and every student is new to St. John’s this year. Dickson describes her intro class as a nice, secure environment where students can bond.

“The class environment is very lax and open,” Malik said. “I really look forward to going to Latin because of how flexible and enjoyable it is.”

According to Dickson, ideally the school would have a Classics department, featuring both Ancient Greek and Latin classes. She would also like to see a second Classics teacher so that more courses, including Latin IV (for those who don’t want to take an AP course) could be offered.

In the short-term, Dickson would like to see more students sign up for Latin I.

“I’m hopeful we’ll have it again next year,” Dickson said. “I really want to keep Latin I in the Upper School as an option for people, especially if they want to do a second language.”