Second-graders at Sts. Joan of Arc & Patrick School carefully made the sign of the cross last week and showed off what they learned in Latin class.
“In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen,” the students said.
All over the St. Patrick campus, first- and second-graders were learning to say Catholic prayers in Latin.
Some had mastered the mealtime prayer.
Others knew only the simplest prayer, Oremus, which means “let us pray.”
Over at the St. Joan of Arc campus, third- to eighth-graders learned more complicated prayers like the Hail Mary and Our Father. The oldest students were even learning how to construct sentences and conjugate verbs.
The Catholic school added Latin to its curriculum this year — a move that received a mixed reception from parents and teachers alike.
For more than five years, the school’s curriculum committee had wanted to add a foreign language class. They explored their options, which included Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.
When they finally settled on Latin last year, some people simply didn’t understand the choice, assistant principal Mandy Smith said.
“A lot of people think of it as a dead language,” she said.
But the school had very specific reasons for the choice, and they weren’t the ones you might expect from a Catholic school.
Principal Nick Kanable said that while teaching Latin will demonstrate the universality of the Catholic church, the church didn’t drive the school’s decision.
Studies conducted by the Educational Testing Service show Latin students consistently outperform all other students on the verbal portion of the SAT.
According to the data, Latin students averaged a 678 on that portion of the exam in 2010. That average was 501 for all students, 633 for French students and 561 for Spanish students.
Kanable cited other data that influenced the school’s decision.