I attribute most of the dissent to my proposal damnant quod non intelligunt: that the critics of this proposal are not necessarily understanding what I have proposed. Now I take some of the responsibility for that, since my original post was meant as a sort discussion starter or abstract, although, apparently, some have mistaken it for some sort of ultima ratio.
I want to begin answering some of the objections to my proposal, and I want to start out with one aspect of this one, since I think it is the most general of the criticisms of my Four Subject Curriculum:
So, your four critical subjects are: a language that no one speaks anymore, a formal system, a method of entertaining yourself and others, and a skill that involves inputting and outputting information. There a few very large gaps, which at least include critical thinking, learning where you fit in the world, and interactive learning.I want to address just the first implicit assertion in this one: that studying a dead language is somehow inferior to studying living languages.
Yes, my plan does include a language no one speaks anymore--if you mean that ad litteram. Yes, no one speaks Latin per se, but that does not ipso facto mean it is not useful to teach. And, in fact, it is not a priori true that a language that is no longer spoken conversationally should not be a major part of a curriculum. Certainly it is not prima facie true that a dead language is better than one that is not, but neither is it true that just because something is ad patres that it shouldn't be considered as a valid curricular subject.
There have been a good many post mortems pronounced over the Latin language, but I think they are a little premature. Is a language useless just because it's dead? G. K. Chesterton once said that a language must die in order to become immortal--or, to put my own Latin spin on it: morte sola lingua immortalis fit.
So why, then, in the year 2008, Anno Domini, would someone consider Latin important enough to be one of the only four subjects in a curriculum? Well for one thing, I will make the claim right here that there is a direct correlation between the lifelessness of a language and its academic worth.
That's right. I'm saying that, academically speaking, a dead language is better than a living one. Now I know as soon as this is posted I'll be pronounced non compos mentis, and the object of challenges to prove it.
I'll save them the trouble.
You don't have to rely on my ipse dixit. Here are the performance results of students with various language backgrounds on the SAT test via the College Board's last National Profile Report:
Notice that the top three languages--Latin, Hebrew, and Greek--are all dead languages. None of them are spoken in the modern world. Yes, Hebrew is spoken in modern Israel and Greek is spoken in Greece. But the vast majority of people with backgrounds in these languages taking the SAT have not studied modern Hebrew or modern Greek, but the ancient versions of these languages which haven't been spoken for centuries.
The languages that do the best job of preparing students for college entrance exams have long ago assumed room temperature.
Quod est demonstrandum.