The Truth About Latin, Clocks and Maps

Some of my friends who have kids in high school insist that those poor kids learn Latin.  Really?  I'm all for the benefits of learning a foreign language, but why not make it one they'll actually get to speak?  To other living people?


Sure, Latin is the foundation of a lot of languages.  And sure, once you learn, it, you can throw out a few phrases ad nauseum in an effort to impress the proletariat.  (See what I did there?)


But wouldn't it make more sense for the kids to learn Spanish, a language spoken by nearly 37 million people in the United States? Or French, the international language of trade and of the Olympics? Or maybe one that sets them apart, like Chinese or Farsi?


But Latin?  It is just not as useful as the modern languages.


That's what I thought until I asked my kids what time it was.


In our family room, we have a beautiful clock hanging over our fireplace, but my kids never use it to tell the time.  The clock is not digital, so my teenagers have a hard time reading it. Or understanding certain phrases related to time.


"What do you mean, it's a quarter to 1?"  they ask.  It's the same as 12:45, just not expressed in digits, I explain to my angels.


To tell the truth, besides that clock and my relic of a wristwatch, all of the clocks in our house are digital. The microwave, the DVR, the clocks on all of our electronics—they all express themselves in numbers.  My kids have lost the art of reading an analog clock.


The same thing with maps.  As I have several new drivers (heaven help me-- and you), I ask them to give me directions to places I already know how to get to, just to have them think about it.  But they don't know—even if they've been there many times.  They don't "see" which streets connect or run parallel.  And frankly, I blame MapQuest.  That original invention, along with Google Maps, that seemed so useful, has led to a generation that can't find its way out of the neighborhood unless it's written down line by line.  My kids don't look at a map to see the overall picture when they can just download turn by turn directions—if they aren't not using the feature that has the automated voice telling them where to go.


Another lost art.


Maybe my Latin-requiring friends have a point.  There's something to be gained by establishing a foundation, even if that foundation seems outdated.  Maybe there's still a need to learn which is the hour hand and which is the minute.  To learn how to tell if you're going north or south, based on where the sun is.  


So I'm going to get my kids a bona fide map and hang it up so they can see where they are and where they are going.  And I'll stop silently criticizing when someone insists that their child learn Latin, because I understand that they are preserving a precious foundation.  And for those parents whose educational decisions I shortsightedly questioned?  Mea culpa.