Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cicero and Elementary Students

Our Latin III class is reading a bit of Cicero's speech Pro Archia.  It is one of my favorites, for in it, Cicero delivers an eloquent eulogy for literature and the arts.  He points out that it is through literature that people in his business, the legal profession, can restore their souls after a long day of haranguing in the forum.  It provides the raw material with which an orator can speak on the great variety of topics required of him.  It provides simple relaxation.

Yet he goes on to utter a statement that has become foundational in our high school's Latin program.  After extolling the virtues of literature for restoration of the mind and body, he challenges all who would lose themselves in books.

Ceteros pudeat, si qui se ita litteris abdiderunt ut nihil possint ex eis neque ad communem adferre fructum, neque in aspectum lucemque proferre.  (Pro Archia 12)

"Let others be ashamed if they have so hidden themselves in literature that they can offer nothing from their reading for the common benefit nor can bring forth anything into the light to be seen."

Using this as a core statement, our students have initiated and maintained many community service projects.  One involves reading the entirety of the Iliad, Odyssey, or Aeneid aloud at a local children's book store to raise money to fight poverty in Indianapolis.  Another sees them making stuffed animals at Build-a-Bear for which they write fables.  The bears and fables are then given to patients at Riley Hospital for Children.

It was the perfect match, then, when I gave my Latin III students a gift today from the 2013 Indiana Teacher of the Year, Suzanne Whitton.  She is elementary art teacher who has begun a project called Art for the Heart.  She recently brought me a large box filled with small canvasses that had been painted by her students.  Each one was wrapped in colorful tissue paper and included a wooden easel.  At the end of our discussion of Cicero today, I invited my students to take a piece of heart for the heart.  It was the perfect way to illustrate all that the great Roman orator had to say.


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