The World Language Department has already taken Latin out of Andover’s middle schools, and in doing so has possibly put AHS’s Latin department at risk.

From left, Rachel Cadet, Julianne Tiechart, Bryce Corbitt, and Megan Hartnett all seem pretty happy to be studying Latin, but theirs is a dying breed. (Photo by Laura O'Brien)
From left, Rachel Cadet, Julianne Tiechart, Bryce Corbitt, and Megan Hartnett all seem pretty happy to be studying Latin, but theirs is a dying breed. (Photo by Laura O’Brien)

Latin has been a staple class at AHS for decades, but as spoken languages such as Spanish, Chinese, and French have become more prominent tongues in the United States, Latin’s popularity has noticeably waned. Latin first began to be phased out of Andover’s curriculum in 2009 when Wood Hill Middle School initially began to phase out the program.

Once WHMS received affirmation that they could drop Latin from their offered courses, Doherty Middle School and West Middle School also ceased to offer Latin over the course of a few years. Now, none of Andover’s public middle schools offer Latin, resulting in a significantly smaller amount of incoming freshman taking the language, a trend which, according to Ms. Francis, a Latin teacher here at AHS, will most likely continue.

According to Ms. Francis, the new schedule may also cause Latin’s popularity to decline. When asked about the future of AHS’s Latin program, Ms. Francis said, “I believe that the lack of middle school Latin and our possible new 7-class schedule will cause Latin to shrink, but I am optimistic that it will survive.” If the new schedule comes into effect as it’s been announced, students will lose the ability to “double-up” on foreign languages, and therefore only have four classes of Latin during their high school career. Those who have not taken Latin previous to high school will lose the ability to take it as an AP course, since that requires five classes.

Many of those currently enrolled in Latin urge that eighth graders strongly consider taking Latin in high school. Junior Bryce Corbitt, who has been taking Latin for four years, says that he recommends it, especially because it has truly benefited him in numerous ways. When speaking about the advantages of taking Latin, Corbitt said, “I have learned so much more vocabulary than I knew before and it’s helped me prepare for both the SSATs, which I previously took, and the upcoming SATs.” Since many English words derive from Latin, any unfamiliar words on a standardized test can often be deduced correctly using knowledge gained in Latin class.

Ms. Giggie, an English teacher at AHS, confirmed that Latin is extremely beneficial for this purpose. According to Ms. Giggie, “[students’] ability to break down words and to tap into their knowledge from their Latin classes, that’s invaluable. To be able to take a word that you may not recognize initially and break it down by associating it with something you’ve studied in Latin, that’s a huge benefit.” Overall, Ms. Giggie admits that students who take Latin often have an advantage in composition when they study prefixes stemming from Latin, and when they read works that relate back to Roman myths.

In light of the many uses of Latin, many dedicated students and faculty are taking a stand to keep the language at AHS. Ever since Latin was first phased out of middle schools, different actions have been taken by pupils to continue their Latin education.  Current AHS sophomore Sophie Uluatam, along with a handful of other students, received weekly tutoring in 2012 from Mrs. Jordan, a former Latin teacher at WMS and current Latin teacher at AHS. This tutoring served the purpose of furthering their Latin career, despite the course not being offered at their school. When asked how she liked the tutoring experience, Uluatam said, “For me it was a really good experience that made me love Latin more; it just kind of confirmed my devotion to Latin.” Since then Uluatam has continued to take Latin and still thoroughly enjoys the class. This form of dedication may be exactly what is necessary to keep Latin at AHS.

One current Latin class, taught by Mrs. Jordan, is in the process of organizing trips to all three middle schools, during which they will present to the eighth graders a short video and visual exhibition for why their audience should take Latin. This presentation is planned for January in order to appeal to the students right before they sign up for their high school classes.

Dr. Allen, head of the language department, is also working on new, creative ways to keep Latin in AHS. Last year he visited several middle schools to promote Latin to the eighth graders, and is currently working on a new class that will incorporate Latin and classical humanities. When asked about this possibility, Dr. Allen said he would “prefer not to go into too much detail since it is still in an early phase of planning.” If he does move forward with this class, it will not go into effect for at least several years.

By Laura O’Brien