We want students to “read well, speak well, and think well.” This means that we want them to understand and internalize how language works both at the level of individual words (their roots, conjugations and declensions), but also the parts of speech. These are the building blocks of argument.
Reading well therefore means reading efficiently, but it also means reading insightfully. The study of language and stories is therefore an introduction to basic human questions. Students should learn how to question a story and be questioned by it. With the right literature, even young students can be made to consider the ‘worthiness’ of a character’s choices, the consequences of their actions, and the importance of truth. They can be asked to consider whether a story or a character is fair or just, whether it is beautiful and why. What are the elements of this and its effect? Does it make the student happy or sad? Can a story be beautiful and sad? They can begin to recognize the significance of symbols and foreshadowing.
The study and recitation of poetry should be used to cultivate memory and the skills that go along with recitation, but poetry should also be treated as a form of vision and a window into truth.
The study of language and literature should complement the study of history and culture by providing a window into them, e.g., in showing how the theme of life as a dangerous journey ‘home’ in Homer and Virgil is decisively taken up and transformed in Christianity and expressed in a millennium of Christian literary and visual art.
The study of Latin (and Greek, if possible) should complement the study of history, religion, and English grammar.