From the Imaginative Conservative: “The Death of Grammar and the End of Education.”

Grammar has suffered the same fate as theology and philosophy in this reductive age. Grammar has been cut off from its transcendent and philosophical roots. Grammar ought to embody the rules for the structure of language, which intend to reflect the hierarchical structure of the Cosmos. The lowest level of grammatical concern for the ancients has become the highest in the modern school.

… A recovery of the true nature of grammar is hardly likely, but let it suffice here to remind us that grammar has its roots in eternity, and its arrangement of categories signifies the rules of existence as well as words can. In identifying the grammar of human existence there are two primary considerations: that of space and that of time, which correlate to our two categories of being and doing. Being and doing are reflected by the speech categories that we call nouns and verbs. In the entirety of language, we can notice that all our linguistic constructions revolve around articulating things and what they do (nouns and verbs). Just so, we understand our lives in terms of being and doing, correlated to space and time. All our considerations revolve around what we are and what we do. It is of primary importance in living out our Christian vocations to know the nature of what we are, to understand the moral implications of what we do, and how these two categories are inextricably related. It is the philosophical problem of our age that we have abandoned a proper understanding of this relationship and it has obscured our understanding of how we ought to educate our children.

Grammar is best learned through a language other than one’s own–a language, in other words, in which you are not allowed to take anything for granted and are forced to see objectively. Furthermore, the ideal educational language for the purposes of learning grammar should be an inflected one–one in which there is, in addition to an organized verb system which modern languages have, an organized noun and adjective system. And finally, the ideal language for learning grammar should be a relatively regular language–one in which there are the least number of exceptions to the rules.

Of course, the language that meets these criteria best is Latin. And this language has the additional benefit that it is the origin of most of learned English. This is perhaps why–when our education system taught grammar and was something to be proud of–Latin was considered the primary academic language.

For articles on this and other classical education topics, check out Memoria Press’s article page here.

 

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