David W. Dunlap is a Metro reporter and writes the Building Blocks column. He has worked at The Times for 40 years.
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It was the first of June, not April. And it wasn’t really a joke. But in 1962, the Gray Lady showed she could have a bit of fun, all the same.
On the editorial page that day, the newspaper called for the retention of Latin in the public school curriculum — in Latin.
“How Dead Is Latin?” the editorial asked.
“Latin is useful to everybody who wishes to read and write English,” The Times declared (in a free translation of the editorial). “Its words are in our daily talk. Its discipline is invaluable for those who wish to speak and write precisely and logically. Latin is not dead. It cannot be killed. It ought to be retained in our schools.”
Among the responses came a letter of support from four students of the Buxton School in Williamstown, Mass. They, too, wrote in Latin.
These days, Buxton students can choose from French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Latin is not an option.
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But there does exist a specialized public high school in New York, Brooklyn Latin, that “offers a classical liberal arts curriculum with an emphasis on the classics and Latin language instruction.”
Tempora Novi Eboraci said it best 53 years ago as it answered its own question: “Non mortua est.”
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