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Chuck Hinman: Most Beneficial Subject taken in High School

This Chuck Hinman column is sure to bring back memories with anyone who had Latin I under Miss Frances Russell at Adair County High School, or Biology I under David Lawrence there - he taught root words from Greek and Latin so well a language student could often do as well on tests as one interested purely in science. A loud 'Amen,' on this column. - Ed Waggener. This column, It's Just Me Again: Most Beneficial Subject Taken in High School, was written by Chuck Hinman 5 February 2004.
The next earlier Chuck Hinman column: Chuck Hinman IJMA No. 315: Memories of 4th of July's Past

By Chuck Hinman

As I reflect on the adequacy of my educational experience, particularly as it relates to elementary school and high school, I am impressed that I owe an immense debt of gratitude to unknown forebears for their insight. What a responsibility they had in providing an educational system that would adequately meet my needs in years to come with few limitations, as well as the needs of everyone attending those schools.

I believe that my education could be referred to as a "nuts and bolts" experience in comparison to that of my children. It came shortly after the Great Depression and the resulting shortage of money. My children's education came when money wasn't scarce as during the Great Depression.

My education took place in an area where the tax base for the cost of that education was provided by an agricultural based economy. On the other hand, my children's education was accomplished in an area where the tax base for the financial support was provided by one of America's corporation giants, Phillips Petroleum Company. The difference was vast.

The curriculum for me, particularly in high school, was a "no frills" one whereas my children's curriculum in the same time period read like that of a prestigious college in comparison.

Which is best? The answer lies in how the educational experience SERVES us in life.

At 82 years of age, I would say that I never once felt that I "came behind" anyone because of my elementary education in a one room country school or my high school education where the enrollment was less than 50 students. I never felt at a disadvantage in comparison to others because my curriculum never allowed for even one elective subject. My high school, Liberty High School was always a Nebraska accredited high school which meant that when I graduated, I could go to college without having to take endless subjects to make up for what I should have gotten in high school.

On the contrary, I feel that my forebears must have been led by remarkable insight in knowing that we Liberty High School graduates would benefit tremendously by two years of required Latin. Surely not!!! How could a Nebraska farm boy possibly benefit from two years of Latin! For what purpose? Most were not going to be Catholic priests who spoke some Latin!

Can you picture that Nebraska farm boy doing his homework by the light of a carbide light and reciting out loud -- "amo, amas, amat"!!! Then can you picture his parents looking in amazement at each other and saying to each other, "Is Chuck talking gibberish?" No, it's not gibberish, it's Latin. Can't you see them shrugging their shoulders in bewilderment.

What those two years of Latin accomplished for that farm boy was to provide an instant clue to the meaning of many new words in his reading experience; new words that came from a Latin derivative. And, there are many such words in the English language.

For example, one of the first words you learn in Latin is "amo" -- a Latin verb for the English word "love." Hence if this farm boy is reading along and comes to this sentence...
This is the first time the farm boy has run on to the word "amourish." He instantly notices the word is built on the Latin root "amo," the first word he learned in Latin 101. In his mind he instantly understands the meaning of the sentence with the new word means something like
"At first, she didn't realize that he had 'romantic' or 'loving' intentions"
The farm boy reader didn't have to lay the book down while he got a dictionary to determine the meaning of the new word "amourish." He benefited instantly. And instances such as this go on more frequently than you might imagine if you haven't had the benefit that comes from studying Latin for two years.

Another quick example. Did you notice the title of this writing -- "Most beneficial subject taken in High School." Many people may have never seen the word "beneficial" before and don't have a clue as to its meaning. Someone might guess that it means "troublesome." Not so for my Liberty High School farm boy. He would have learned that the Latin word "bene" translates as "good" in English. Thus as he is reading "Most 'beneficial' -- he sees the Latin root "bene" which means "good" and he reads the whole sentence roughly in his mind as
"Most 'good' subject taken in High School"
Have I made my point? Latin I and II are "hands down" the "MOST 'GOOD' SUBJECT TAKEN IN HIGH SCHOOL." Learning is communicating!

Written by Chuck Hinman, February 5, 2004, ImPeruvians Writing Club

Editorial Note: If you are thinking "amourish" is not a word, I was thinking that as well. Googling found less than 40 webpages. The expected word would be "amorous." I think Chuck invented this word on purpose. - Robert H. Stone

This story was posted on 2012-07-08 04:50:26
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