Skip to main content
Classical Christian Movement

Worthless, Difficult and Old

By December 1, 2008January 31st, 2023No Comments

← Back to Resources

Why study Latin? All of us in classical, Christian education have asked the question. Rather than spout statistics proving that Latin comes in handy on the SAT’s, we might focus on three less practical reasons for the study of Latin. Latin contributes to our classical values because it is worthless, difficult, and old.

First, Latin is practically worthless, but I don’t mean that in quite the way it might sound. Language is the most common means of communication. Until the final, or “rhetoric” stage, however, the classical educator is not so much concerned with the student’s ability to communicate ideas, but rather with his capacity to receive them. In fact, we are convinced that the latter must precede the former.

Language is also the mechanism that drives thought, and as the scope and depth of our language shrivels, so does our capacity for deep and significant thought. The student of rhetoric cannot speak well until he has first learned to listen and to think. It is the “listening” rather than the “speaking” nature of Latin study that makes it so valuable. Because of the conversational emphasis, the study of a modern language cannot serve the same purpose. So, one learns Latin, not to speak with Cicero or with Augustine, but to sit at their feet, to receive and understand their thoughts.

Second, Latin is difficult. If language is the mechanism of thought, translation is thought itself. The student is presented with a thought contained in a puzzle; he extracts the meaning, and then reinterprets and represents the thought. This is hard work, but only in this way does the student learn to own the ideas. The earlier we foster this complex skill in our students, the easier they will translate any text at more demanding stages of their careers.

Beyond worthlessness and difficulty, Latin has the additional advantage of being old. The act of translation itself is valuable, but Latin texts are also of great intellectual value. As a student bears through the slow, difficult years of mastering Latin grammar, he has the opportunity to practice the newly acquired art of translation on the philosophy and politics of Cicero, the history of Caesar, and the poetry of Virgil. This provides an unmatched entrance into the ancient world—the world into which Christianity was born, a world which the Gospel conquered and eventually adopted.

In the end we hope that; in whatever language or media our students confront a thought—political debate, newspaper article, poetry, or advertising; their study of Latin will provide the discipline and insight necessary to discern the meaning of the message, and to articulate an appropriate response.


Summer Conference 2024 - National Harbor, Maryland

Join us for a gathering of classical Christian educators from around the world as we consider what it means to build school communities and welcome the outside through biblical hospitality.

As a member, you receive access to all of the most recent summer conference content, including 80+ workshops, plenary speakers, etc., plus access to the full library of past content.

Conference Sessions

Ensure increased visibility for your school by having it listed on the Find a School Map, connecting you with potential students and families seeking a classical Christian learning environment.

Map Feature

Unlock a wealth of exclusive resources, such as research studies and articles, providing valuable insights and knowledge for your school's continuous improvement.


Enable your school to easily post job openings and attract qualified candidates with the Career Center, simplifying the hiring process.

Career Center

Enjoy exclusive discounts on all SCL events and services, empowering you to access valuable resources and opportunities for your school's growth at a more affordable cost.

Exclusive Discounts

Get access to exclusive cohorts and workshops!

Cohorts and Workshops

SCL conducts school-wide surveys to provide relevant information to the classical Christian community as well as access to in-depth research with partner organizations like the Barna Group.


A connected community of classical Christian thought leaders, including heads of school, board members, marketing and admissions directors, development and fundraising directors, academic deans, grammar and upper school heads, and teachers from all grade levels are here to support and encourage one another.


Member-exclusive Coaching Call sessions. 15-20 online sessions each year from key-thought leaders on topics ranging from legal and operational issues to pedagogical and philosophical discussions. Think of it as a mini-conference each month!

Coaching Calls

Gain new insight, knowledge, and skills around best practices in a short, intensive format with workshops or a year-long mentorship experience with cohorts. Designed for administrators, teachers, parents, leaders, and department heads – anyone seeking to learn and grow in their role.

Conference & Workshops

Our network of seasoned professionals is available to navigate your questions and brainstorm solutions with you. Let us know how you want to direct your time and we will pair you with the senior leader that best suits your school’s unique needs.