Latin has a way of sticking to you, if you learned it at school. Far from being a dead language, at least in the minds of those who have particularly unhappy associations with the context in which they were taught, it is very much alive.
For one thing, it has shaped a good deal of the English which we still speak, as well as the more classical Latinate languages like Spanish and Italian. Bits of it can also remain lodged in our consciousness in their original form.
Take for example the two cognate verbs, dicere and ducere. Conjugating them in parallel, as we were taught to do as an aide memoire, makes a pleasing jingle – dico, dicere, dixi, dictus alongside duco, ducere, duxi, ductus – if I remember rightly. The first, ‘dico’, means ‘to say, tell speak, or name’ and sits neatly alongside the second, meaning ‘to lead, consider, or regard’. The word ducere is the root from which is derived ‘education’ and resonates, or perhaps evokes, the meaning of dicere. In other words the two are not only cognate but, in a sense, inseparable.
People are educated, in the early stages of schooling, by being ‘told’ things, having them ‘named’. But this is only a means to an end. The purpose of education is not simply that a person should absorb enough information to pass a test, or later to qualify them for a job, but that they should use what information they absorb in their early years, as well as what is learned later in life, to inform the way they ‘regard’ the world, other people and themselves, or how, in whatever capacity they find themselves in, they ‘lead’ it.
Consider the current debate over a return to grammar schools. Is it really a return? I am not an expert in the field, but I would have thought that it is difficult, if not impossible, to return to the way things were done in former times when it comes to education, or even to how we structure the school system itself. We were ‘told’ things differently in those former times and there was a great deal less to tell, or else it was told wrongly, in the light of advances that have been made in virtually all the academic disciplines. Society functioned differently too. As a result, and with the wisdom of hindsight, we are now aware of the sociological effects of creaming off talent, both for those who might find themselves in the new grammar schools and those who will not.
It would be interesting to know if people sense the same kind of social limitations where the best sporting or musical talent has been creamed off. Do the ‘not so goods’ who are left behind feel more motivated? Do the talented who have been creamed off feel a sense of partial isolation? Good independent schools often model what society ought to look like, as do good comprehensives, because the achievement emphasis is often less on streaming, or creaming off, and more on building the individual’s confidence as a person who is part of a community which is being educated, in the fullest sense, to be the society of the future. They are ‘told’ in order that they may ‘regard’ the world and others with greater wisdom, or at least that is what we wish were happening.
Would it not be better then, in sport, as well as in the classroom, if the gifted were taught to ‘consider’ or ‘regard’ those less gifted as being themselves a gift? Imagine if all faith schools were taught that those of other faiths, or none, were the most precious of God’s gifts to the rest of humanity. In this ideal community all would be educators, preparing themselves and others to realise their gifts, as and when they emerged, in such a way as to bring hope and healing to society.