Humanities Students Say Goodbye to Latin

By Kaitlyn Brathwaite ’18 and Evelyn Perez ’18

        Latin classes have not been offered this year because not enough students wanted to take them.

        A few years ago, the Humanities students had no choice but to take Latin because it was a requirement. However, that changed. According to Principal Michael McDonnell, there was a form that was given out to the freshmen in the Humanities Program back in May. 

        The Social Studies, English, and Foreign Language departments got together to create the form. This form included six choices such as art, music, law, Latin, and other choices.

        These choices are part of the five tracks: the World Language track, the AP Capstone Seminar track, Music track, the Law track, and the Media Arts track. The students had to choose their top three choices. The choice selected for them would determine what track they would in for the next three years.

        “I want to make it clear that Latin was offered, and students didn’t want it, so I feel bad too,” said Mr. McDonnell. “I would’ve loved [for] kids to continue taking Latin here, but I just don’t feel that’s right to force them. I believe that students should have a right to choose electives that they want to take.”

        Latin was taught by Mr. Michael O’Neill, who now teaches Spanish and music. According to him, it hasn’t been an easy transition.

        “I found out in June,” said Mr. O’Neill. “It’s been difficult, but the Spanish teachers are wonderful. They’re great supporters, and patient. They’re willing to help.”

        Some students are sad to hear that Latin isn’t a class this year.

        “It’s very unfortunate to hear that there aren’t Latin classes,” said Svetlana Gavrilova ’19. “I really enjoyed taking it last year. I learned a lot about different cultures and holidays. Mr. O’Neill is an amazing teacher. He always made sure we worked really hard and gave a lot of work. I would recommend [taking] Latin because it was very informative and interesting. We focused a lot on grammar, history, and cultures.”

        Many students such as Brianna Smith ’18 and Alejandra Cruz ’18, agree that taking Latin was beneficial.

        Smith said, “Almost all languages originate from Latin and the language itself is extremely beneficial. [Mr. O’Neill] would play classical music which is one of my favorite genres of music, so I enjoyed it. In all honesty, I miss Latin and wish I would’ve taken it for another year.”

        Cruz said, “Latin was not only a class where I learned the roots of English and the way words are set up, but from Mr. O’Neill I learned valuable lessons about education, manners, as well as the true, the good, and the beautiful. It’s a phrase that he would say every day and told us to value it. It helped me understand vocabulary that I wasn’t familiar with, which is helpful for students when taking the SAT.”

        Some students, based on their programming, were required to take Latin. Aruba Ahmed ’18 was one of those students. However, she was very eager to be in the class to learn.

        “I love languages and poetry,” said Ahmed. “Latin is one of the oldest languages to exist, and as a poet, to me, that’s valuable because I find beauty in old things.  My favorite part of the class was being given the ‘Dicta Latina’ because the mottos he gave were so intriguing. My favorite one was ‘Momento mori,’ which means ‘Remember that you must die.’ I also loved having Mr. O’Neill as my teacher. He inspired me to take on the world and do as much as I can by working as hard as I could.”

        Other students enjoyed the variety in the Latin curriculum, as well.

        Evelyn Gonzaga ’18 said, “The class was pretty good. We learned about grammar and jazz. I don’t think I’d study it as a career, but maybe I’d take a class again.”

        Mr. McDonnell states that the same form that was given out last year will be given this year.

        “Now, if Ms. Fernandez and the World Language department decide to not go with Latin and put up Mandarin, or put up some other language, then maybe that’s a possibility, but that decision hasn’t been made yet,” said Mr. McDonnell.

        Ms. Fernandez said, “I hope to one day to bring back Latin. I think the study of Latin is growing in New York State, but also in the country. In the world, we need to have more humanities. Science is good, and we need to have scientists, but there isn’t a single great scientist that was not also a humanist.” Whether Latin is brought back to the curriculum is in the hands of the student body.

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