Does Latin Nurture or Undermine a Lifelong Love for Learning?

Does Latin Nurture or Undermine a Lifelong Love for Learning?

Written by David Seibel | 9.12.2019

In a TedTalk with more than 17 million views, Sir Ken Robinson makes a profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures rather than undermines creativity. He uses a number of illustrations and stories to show educators often inadvertently steal the joy of learning from students through over-correcting and over-professionalizing the learning process. Nobody likes their best being marked up by red ink.

The first time I watched this video as a teacher, my initial response was to cut out all of my educational practices that seemed too focused on structure and discipline. Now that I am in a different educational tradition, I see the best way to cultivate beautiful creativity in older students is to train disciplined desire into younger students. 

In Classical Education, this formative methodology is known as the Trivium and it has become increasingly widespread.  In this post, I want to show three ways learning Latin at a young age nurtures creativity in learners.  

“The beautiful creativity of Bach or Shakespeare is the fruit of years of discipline.”

“The beautiful creativity of Bach or Shakespeare is the fruit of years of discipline.”

#1: Freedom and creativity are the fruits of discipline

For a kite to fly ‘freely’ in the sky, it needs the disciplined tug of the string. This disciplined tug of the string was typically inculcated in students through memorization of declensions and Latin vocabulary.

Latin takes years of disciplined study before it can be put to any significant use.  It’s inclusion in a curriculum teaches students that discipline is worthy of celebration.

The 19th Century philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”  The human heart believes that the ‘no strings attached’ expression is the true definition of creativity. However, the beautiful creativity of Bach or Shakespeare or fill in the blank, is the fruit of years of discipline.  Without the tug of the string, the kite will never fly high.  

“Those who really nurture creativity in their students are the ones that take joy in seeing their students progress.”

“Those who really nurture creativity in their students are the ones that take joy in seeing their students progress.”

#2: Creativity is nurtured by creative teachers

A great teacher can make any subject area come alive, even a dead language. After studying Spanish, Hebrew, Latin and Greek the last few years, I have interacted with a number of different language teachers.  Those who really nurture creativity in their students are the ones that take joy in seeing their students progress in the disciplined understanding of an ancient language. 

I remember the joy I felt the first time I appropriately translated a Greek sentence in front of my professor.  I enjoyed the content some but it was really motivating to feel their approval as well!  

“He who is taught without study, like him who is fed without exercise, will lose both appetite and strength.”

“He who is taught without study, like him who is fed without exercise, will lose both appetite and strength.”

#3: Creativity starts with conformity

The best forms of education always start with imitation, structure and conformity.  In Latin learning, the students need to conform their minds around this content matter. The subject area is hard and unmoldable and will not change for them; they must change. 

Educator John Milton Gregory wrote, “Mental toil gives to the mind both appetite and digestive power, and he who is taught without study, like him who is fed without exercise, will lose both appetite and strength.”  In other words, if kids are not trained to toil in their learning, they will never love learning.

Basically…

Kids need to learn that love is not a feeling but rather an unwavering commitment. If we want kids to love learning for a lifetime, we need them to see that love can and will involve mental toil. Nurturing creativity must start with disciplined desire and Latin is a great way to do just that.    

As Head of School at Coram Deo Academy, Dave Seibel aims to cultivate a generation of scholar-disciples who are passionate about learning. He is husband to Brooke and father of four future Coram Deo students. He is a graduate of Wabash College, Marian University and in final Master of Divinity course at Southern Seminary.

As Head of School at Coram Deo Academy, Dave Seibel aims to cultivate a generation of scholar-disciples who are passionate about learning. He is husband to Brooke and father of four future Coram Deo students. He is a graduate of Wabash College, Marian University and in final Master of Divinity course at Southern Seminary.

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