Why Palm Springs High and All Kids Need Latin

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My son wearing his Latin laurel wreath on graduation night.

The reason I’m reminiscing about how much my kids loved Latin and Mrs. Lazarova is that the administrators are threatening to shut down the Latin program. There is a meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 12) at the Palm Springs Unified School District meeting at 6 p.m. with many people attending in support of the PSHS Latin program. I’ve heard that Mrs. Lazarova was not given a single Latin class to teach next school year. Here’s a link to the Facebook Page that was started by former students of Mrs. Lazarova (Save Latin at Palm Springs Highschool). 

One of the best things about Palm Springs High School, if not the best thing, is the Latin program. Both of my children took four years of Latin from Svetlana Lazarova, who is an outstanding teacher because of her passion. She cares about each student and teaches them not only Latin, but history, grammar, Western Civilization and the importance of being good people throughout their lives.

I was amazed when my son asked us to attend Latin Night at the end of his freshman year. I had no idea what to expect, but after the first year, I looked forward to the evening as a highlight and culmination of all their hard work. Not only were the National Latin Exam awards handed out, but each class made presentations from short plays to reciting Cicero. The senior class always put together a tribute to Mrs. Lazarova and it would be side-splitting funny or so emotional I would wipe tears from my eyes. At the end, before cake, Mrs. Lazarova gave each senior a laurel wreath and a hug. The Latin seniors would proudly wear their laurel wreaths at graduation night.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to cut such a valuable program. Latin is sometimes called a dead language, but the study of Latin offers so much more than language. Latin is critical to the root words of our English. If your kids want to be doctors, attorneys or earn a degree in any science, they’ll need Latin.  If you Google “why should my child take Latin” you’ll find countless articles like this one posted by Thought Co:

The Benefits of Learning Latin

I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent.
— From the National Review.

Latin Helps With English Grammar
While neither the language nor grammar of English derives from Latin, many of our grammatical rules do. For instance, since you CAN’T have a dangling preposition in Latin, certain purists consider it bad form in English (see Latin Grammar: Comparisons Between English and Latin).

Latin Makes You More Careful in English
In Latin, you have more to worry about than whether a plural pronoun refers to a singular noun (as in the politically correct – grammatically incorrect: each student has their own workbook).

In Latin, there are 7 cases with which not only pronouns but adjectives — not to mention verbs — must agree. Learning such rules makes the student careful in English.

But more important is the fact that traditional study of Latin starts out with a grammatical framework… As American students begin Latin, they become acquainted with the “Latin grammar” system, which they can indirectly transfer to their work in English. What it gives them is a standardized set of terms in which to describe words in relations to other words in sentences, and it is this grammatical awareness which makes their English writing good.
–William Harris

Latin Helps You Maximize SAT scores
This sells Latin programs. Through Latin, test takers can guess at the meanings of new words because they already know the roots and prefixes. But it’s not just enhanced vocabulary. Math scores also increase.

Latin Increases Accuracy
This may be due to the increased accuracy Professor Emeritus William Harris notes:​

“From another point of view, the study of Latin does foster precision in the use of words. Since one reads Latin closely and carefully, often word by word, this focuses the student’s mind on individual words and their usage. It has been noticed that people who have studied Latin in school usually write quite good English prose. There may be a certain amount of stylistic imitation involved, but more important is the habit of reading closely and following important texts with accuracy.”

I asked my children what they learned while taking Latin and they both said it helped them with their SATs, vocabulary, understanding literature, grammar, mythology and learning about the beginning of Western Civilization. Mrs. Lazarova taught them about the culture and included art and food in her program. My kids are smarter and more intelligent because of their years with Mrs. Lazarova. They are also better people, because of Mrs. Lazarova’s emphasis on character and being a caring member of society. It’s so competitive to get into colleges these days, why wouldn’t you want your kids to study Latin, increase their SAT scores and show on their transcripts that they studied Latin for four years?

One study I read states that only 18 percent of public schools offer Latin while more than 80 percent of private schools do. So, is it the point of our Palm Springs school district to restrict the ability of our public school children to compete with those in private schools? What is the purpose of canceling the Latin program? If our children continue with Latin, why wouldn’t want the best teacher there?

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My son and friend at high school graduation.

What do you see as the major benefit of studying Latin?

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2 thoughts on “Why Palm Springs High and All Kids Need Latin

  1. I was discussing the many benefits of studying Latin with a Yale-educated doctor friend of mine the other night. We agreed that perhaps the main benefit is that it just makes you smarter. There are the rules that need to be memorized and the grammatical sequence and order that need to be processed and understood and retained, and also the comprehension of the Latin culture. The subject matter is by itself challenging, but when you add an instructor like Svetlana Lazarova, with her vast knowledge and passion, the result is an incredible learning opportunity for all students fortunate enough to take her class.

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