Elementary Latin


I was asked to write an article on teaching Latin in our synod’s elementary schools, which has been posted on the MLC Issues in Lutheran Education blog.

A Case for Classical Latin in Elementary Schools

Below are links to some of the resources mentioned in the blog post, and a few others.

And a few of my own posts on Latin and Education:

Latin and Ditches

I came across this little clip in an 1891 Yearbook for the Christian Home.

AdamsLatin and Ditches

John Adams, the second President of our land, used to relate the following anecdote:

“When I was still a boy, I had to learn the Latin Grammar, but I was lazy and hated the thing. My father wished to send me to college, and therefore I studied the Grammar, until I could no longer bear it. Then I went to my father and said to him that I had no desire to study, and asked him to direct me to another occupation. It was against his wishes but he was ready with an answer. “Well John,” he said, “if Latin Grammar does not suit you, you can try digging ditches, perhaps that will be better; my pasture over there needs a ditch, and you can set aside the Latin and try that.”

This seemed a delightful change, and off to the meadow I went. But I soon learned that ditch-digging is harder than Latin, and the first morning was the longest I ever experienced. That day I ate the bread of hard work, and I was glad when evening came. That night I made some comparison between Latin Grammar and ditch-digging, but didn’t say a word about it. I dug the next morning, and wanted to return to Latin by noon, but it was humiliating, and I couldn’t bear that. By the second night, weariness conquered my pride; and though it was the hardest test I had ever undergone, I finally brought myself to say to my father, that if he chose, I would go back to Latin Grammar. He was glad of it, and if I have since gained any distinction in the world, I owe it all to the two days of labor in that abominable ditch.”

Lutherans Confess from Generation to Generation

Here’s a great video and post from Paul McCain’s Cyberbrethren blog:

Confessing the Faith…Through All Generations – In Honor of Lutheran Schools Week (Featuring Lyle Lovett)

Here is a beautiful YouTube video of the reading of the Nicene Creed which dates back over a 1,000 years in the the Christian church. This recitation was done at Trinity Lutheran Church, Klein, TX during the March 4, 2012 church services by three members of Trinity as part of Lutheran Schools week. These three members, and students (former and present) are: Mr. Erich Klenk, 97 years old, confirmed in 1928, past Chairman of the congregation, charter member of the Men’s Club in 1946,  and Trinity’s oldest member. Lyle Lovett, great grandson of Trinity founding father Adam Klein, confirmed in 1971, singer/songwriter, and winner of four Grammys. Erin Pali, class of 2016 and current 4th grade student of Miss Marilyn Peterson/ Erin’s Dad Brett also had Miss Petersen in 4th grade during his years at Trinity. This video was posted to YouTube by Pat Blake.

Lot long ago I had seen that Lyle Lovett‘s new album included Martin Luther’s hymn “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Your Word.” You can listen to a preview of the song below, or click to order or download the album.

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Lutheran Education

In his recent book, Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future, Dr. Thomas Korcok examines the history of Lutheran schools, starting with Luther and the other Wittenberg reformers and ending with a discussion of how Lutheran schools today best make use of this rich heritage. The basic premise is that throughout its history, confessional Lutheranism has considered the education of their youth to be critical to the ongoing life of the church. In every age, the church’s schools have had to determine how this work is to be done. Korcok makes the case that at critical points in its history, Lutherans have determined that the classical liberal arts model of education was the ideal in accomplishing its aims. And yet, Korcok shows how Luther and the Wittenberg educators, and then Walther and the Saxon immigrants modified and adapted the liberal arts for their own use. In each generation, various theological and educational movements either needed to be rejected or adapted in order for Lutheran education to be useful. Luther dealt with medieval scholasticism and Aristotelian philosophy, while also understanding that Erasmus’ humanism wasn’t the complete answer either. In Walther’s day, Rationalism was a force opposed to the Lutheran teaching, while Pietism was the pervasive background, even to many confessional Lutherans of that era.

It was enlightening to see how these Lutherans saw in the liberal arts (and their adaptations of it) a natural way of passing on the faith to the next generation and raising up another generation of useful members of society, particularly in the seedbed of society, the home. Baptism, vocation, and catechesis were central. Music was considered  an essential part of this education, and was incorporated into the lower trivial arts. Languages were always important, as language is the means by which God communicates in his word and the tool with which the baptized serve in their vocations in the world and with which they are able to communicate the Gospel to others. This was true even if the languages shifted from Latin to German to English.

The book does not spell out exactly what a Lutheran classroom should look like in the 21st century. It does make the point that the modern classical education movement is not completely identical to the Lutheran adaptation of the liberal arts. But Lutheran schools should carefully consider (or at least be familiar with) what their fathers did, why they did it, and thoughtfully adapt for today.

The book focuses on the schools established by the Saxon Lutherans who became the Missouri Synod. It would be very interesting to find out how those efforts compared to the beginnings of schools in the Wisconsin Synod. It seems as though Wisconsin churches were nearly as aggressive in starting and promoting their parish schools. I wonder if the paths are parallel here. Today, I don’t hear much talk at all about the liberal arts or classical education within the WELS. For example, last fall’s Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Symposium on Lutheran Schools featured a paper entitled “What our Lutheran Fathers Taught Us about Lutheran Schools.” The paper didn’t even mention the liberal arts as a foundation for Lutheran schools. The other papers didn’t mention it either. It makes me wonder why.

One issue that took me by surprise was the response to the kindergarten movement from confessional Lutherans. Interestingly, the first kindergarten in the United States was begun in Watertown, WI, in 1856. The first publicly funded kindergarten was started in St. Louis in 1873. The founder of the movement, Friedrich Fröbel, was raised a Lutheran but denied original sin, among other things. The philosophy behind the movement was not a good one, and the reaction from confessional Lutherans was not positive. At least one point of opposition to the kindergarten was that it removed young children from the influence of their parents. Today, obviously, we do not hear such objections. In fact, early childhood education is hailed as a premier outreach opportunity for Lutheran congregations. For example, take a look at this video that was publicized yesterday. My question is:  How is it that we have come full circle on this? I’m interested to know how the original objections were dismissed, and whether there is still some need for caution.

Another question that crossed my mind while reading about the differences between a Lutheran use of the liberal arts and progressive liberal education in the United States today, is to what degree are our Lutheran schools today influenced by these opposing philosophies? Or, have we somehow reconciled them? What are the distinctives in Lutheran education that set it apart from other models of education? How, for example, does our teacher training prepare our teachers to distinguish their teaching from progressive liberal education? Is it just that we teach religion classes and we watch for anti-Christian bias in other subjects? Or is there something fundamental in the basics of educational theory that is either Christian or not? Are our teachers trained to know the difference?

Finally, what does a liberal arts education look like in a 21st century Lutheran School? According to Korcok, there are three areas of emphasis in which a Lutheran school draws on its liberal arts roots—catechesis, language, and music. I would guess, then, that a strong focus on these areas is the best way for a Lutheran school to begin down the path of drawing on our rich heritage of Lutheran education in the liberal arts.

This past year our school went through the process of accreditation, and as part of that process we identified these statements to describe the way we see our school fulfilling its mission. At least part of the goal in stating these is to keep in the forefront those things that make a Lutheran school what it is.

  1. The school will demonstrate that its main objective is the catechesis (instruction) of its students in the Word of God and its teachings.
  2. The school will develop and maintain a quality music program, as central to its ministry.
  3. The school will intentionally seek to build up the homes and families of students and members of the congregation.
  4. The school will develop and maintain a language curriculum that prepares students to be master communicators and clear thinkers.

I highly recommend this book to all Lutheran pastors, teachers, school board members, etc. At the very least it should be a starting point for a discussion of the state of our schools and teaching today, and as a guide for talking about our future as well. Perhaps some of my readers will have some answers for the questions that my reading has raised. Below I have included a few additional links to resources dealing with the topic of the Lutheran use of the liberal arts and classical education models.

Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future
Lutheran Schools of America (Evangelical Lutheran Synod)
The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education
Issues, etc. Segments on Classical Education

*This image is from the title page of a music book published in 1894. My copy came from my great-uncle George, which I think belonged to his grandfather before him.

Concordia Observation #1: Churches and Schools

The Preface to the Christian Book of Concord records the intent and agreement of those who signed their names to the Formula of Concord and the other confessional documents of the Lutheran Church, which are contained in the Book of Concord. It provides a glimpse into just some of the issues present at the time and the reasons for their confession.

One of the things that jumped out at me during my reading of it was how often the phrase “churches and schools” is used. 18 times in these 9 pages Chemnitz and Andreae use this phrase. Only seldom do they mention their churches apart from their schools.

At first, it made me wonder what kind of schools they were talking about. Could they be referring to schools like the University of Wittenberg, which became a central source of teaching in Lutheranism? It was the teachers in these schools (like Philip Melanchthon, for example, who penned the Augsburg Confession and its Apology) who were among the first to stand up as confessors of the faith.

But after reading it, I am inclined to think that these schools were more than just their institutions of higher learning. These were schools which were attached to their churches. The churches and schools confessed the faith together. They were attacked by false teaching together. Ministers served in both churches and schools.

I still don’t know much about the form of these schools. It’s something I would like to investigate if I had the time. I would be interested to know how these schools relate to the kinds of Lutheran schools we have today.  But what I notice here is simply the fact that the earliest Lutherans identified themselves as “churches and schools.”

The Lutheran Church has a long history of operating schools in connection to their congregations. And when Lutherans came to America, confessional Lutheran synods were also quick to start schools. Lutheran schools, especially at the elementary and middle school level, have been a stronghold in church bodies like the Wisconsin and Missouri Synods. Of course, not every congregation had a school. But the confessors recognized a crucial role for our schools. The schools were a vital part of confessing the true Christian faith. And confessing the faith was the most vital part of their schools.

Today it seems that schools are viewed more as a liability than an asset. Schools cost money. Lots of money. And therefore, they are viewed as an optional luxury for congregations that can afford it. I’m not suggesting that every congregation must or should operate a school. I’m simply observing a different way of viewing our schools.

In addition, I think sometimes there is a thought that because our schools are viewed as an “outreach tool” (not a bad thing, necessarily), the confession in the Lutheran school must be somewhat muted, so as not to turn off non-member parents. Often parents aren’t looking for a specifically Lutheran education. Anything generically Christian will do, or at least a school that teaches “Christian values.” So we won’t make such a big deal about being Lutheran in the school, or at least we ‘ll just save that for the pastor’s catechism class for the older students.

I don’t recognize either of these attitude in our Lutheran confessions. Their schools were a part of their identity, and the confession of Lutheran doctrine was their school’s identity.

We regularly hear news that our schools are not in the best of shape. Schools are closing. Others are shrinking. There are all kinds of reasons for these things, from the economy and the cost of tuition, to the parents’ priorities or the congregation’s level of support. Our congregations don’t have as many children as they used to, in part because parents don’t have as many children as they used to. In short, there are all kinds of things that ail our Lutheran schools.

But I believe the ultimate answer—if we want to keep Lutheran schools—is to keep our schools Lutheran. This means that our teachers ought to be well trained in Christian doctrine, including these Lutheran Confessions.We ask our school teachers to conform all of their teaching according to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. It means that the mission (even vision or objectives) ought to flow from this same confessional standard. It means that our main objectives are those things that allow church and school to confess the faith together. It means that our curriculum is going to have Lutheran catechesis as a central element rather than an awkward appendage.

I think about these things quite frequently, as I have always been (since kindergarten) involved in some sort of Lutheran school, and now also serve as acting principal of our school. And we are currently working through the accreditation process for our school, which has us documenting and articulating the purposes and plans for our school. So when I came across this constant repetition in the Preface to the Book of Concord, these words struck me as a most excellent model for own churches and schools:

We conclude that nothing more agreeable could happen or should be sought more eagerly and prayerfully from almighty God than the following: (a) both our churches and our schools should persevere in the pure doctrine of God’s Word and that longed-for and godly oneness of mind, and (b) as was the case while Luther was still alive, they should be regulated by the divine Word, which was handed down to posterity in a godly and excellent way.

Related post: Our Schools

Christ Is With Me

This year our theme for the school year, especially for our weekly chapel services, was taken from this hymn from Christian Worship Supplement, “Christ Is With Me.” During the year, I covered as many aspects of Christ’s presence among us as I could, generally following the themes of the church year. Here are a few highlights:

  • September: Christ is with us when we gather in his name. Because of his promise, he is with us when we worship him, from invocation to benediction.
  • October: Christ is with us at all times and in all places. We noted God’s presence by night and day, and no matter where we might travel.
  • November (End Time): Christ is with us to the very end. Whether that is the end of our earthly life, or the end of this world, Christ will never leave.
  • December: God is with us in his son, Immanuel. Now that he has become our brother, Christ is never separate from us, for he is one of us.
  • January: In baptism, we are connected with Christ. His righteousness is ours; our sin is his.
  • February: Christ is with us through cross and suffering. In fact, especially in times of danger, fear, and sadness, Christ assures us of his presence.
  • March (Lent): Christ is with us because he suffered and died. He was abandoned by his people, his disciples, and finally by God himself. Left alone, so that we never would.
  • April (Easter): Christ is risen. Had he remained in the grave, he could not be with us. But a living Christ can keep his promise to never leave us.
  • May (Ascension): Jesus left his disciples when he ascended into heaven, but not really. In fact, when he sits on his throne, he is closer than ever before. Jesus’ ascension guarantees his presence with us constantly, and especially in the means of grace.

This is just a summary of a whole year of chapel devotions. This Sunday, our students will be singing this hymn in church. Our kids have been practicing at home, and so I have had the privilege of listening to these deep scriptural truths sung to me by the kids. The verses are paraphrases of verses from Romans 6, John 15, and Galatians 2.

We were buried with him into death,
That as he was raised by God’s glory,
We might walk in life made new by grace.
Having died with Christ, we shall live with him.

Christ is with me ev’rywhere I go. Never to leave me, this I know.

I have now been grafted to the vine,
Drawing life from roots rich in mercy,
Bearing fruit as I abide in him:
Fruit forever fresh, glorifying God.


I have now been crucified with Christ.
I no longer live; Christ lives in me.
Now I live by faith in God’s own Son,
One who loved me so—gave himself for me.


Text: Gerald Patrick Coleman, b. 1953, alt

What I’ve been up to

I’ve been pretty silent here lately, so I thought I’d give you a quick rundown on what has been keeping me busy.

Lent and Easter
Yes, this is perhaps the busiest time of the year. People will make comments to me about how busy I must be, with all the extra services. And this year we even added a service on Good Friday—five unique services from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. But I’m never exactly sure how to respond. Yes, I’m busy. And it is a struggle to get ready for all the services, especially when they come so quickly, and especially when other issues inevitably come up during holy week. But I really don’t want anyone to think that I would rather be doing anything else.

For all of the busy-ness and the craziness, there is simply no time of year I love more than holy week, and especially the feast of the resurrection. It can be such a temptation to get through Good Friday, and sort of coast through Easter. But, no. The festival service on Easter is the most important of all, the highest festival in the entire year. This year I preached on the historic epistle for Easter Sunday, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. What a joy to keep the festival, and for it all to culminate in the feast that is the Lord’s Supper, a foretaste of the feast already enjoyed by the saints in heaven.

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—
So strong his love—to save us.
See, his blood now marks our door;
Faith points to it; death passes o’er,
And Satan cannot harm us. Hallelujah!

So let us keep the Festival
to which the Lord invites us;
Christ is himself the Lord of all,
The sun that warms and lights us.
Now his grace to us imparts
Eternal sunshine to our hearts.
The night of sin is ended. Hallelujah! (CW 161, st. 3,4)

School Planning & Accreditation
We are busy planning and preparing for the next school, and even beyond. In January we began the process of a school self-study for accreditation. But we’re also gearing up for next year by getting all of our enrollment materials in place. This week we’re distributing fliers throughout the area. We’ve already delivered 2,000 to surrounding homes, and we’ll be getting more out as soon as they’re printed. El Paso is a growing city, with lots of young military families. Accreditation is an important part of serving these families, partly because Ft. Bliss requires school to be accredited in order to be recommended on post, and also because military families move so often that we want to make sure our students records easily transfer to the schools nationwide, even worldwide, where our students end up.

I’m trying my hand at desert gardening this summer. The kids and I have planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and melons. We’ll see how things grow here. We definitely have plenty of sun. It should be a fun little experiment. and if we get some food out of it, great.

Last month Sara’s sister Liz arrived in El Paso. She is an Army nurse and will be stationed at William Beaumont Army Medical Center for the next two years. She will be staying with us until she finds a place of her own. We’re not really in any hurry for that to happen, however; it’s nice to have her here. And it will be a real blessing to have family within a few miles instead of a few hundred miles (or thousand).

It’s baseball season again, and I’ve again been enjoying the MLB AtBat app on my phone. As much as I wish I could be in Minnesota to actually see outdoor Major League Baseball in Minnesota this summer, being able to listen to the games on my phone is better than nothing.

I’m still trying to make my way through my “to read” stack of books. However, I just can’t resist adding more books to the pile. If you want to, you can watch what I’m reading on the web site GoodReads.

I’m looking forward to reading through the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord again this summer. I try to do that every other year. I’ll write more on that in the next couple weeks.

Coming Up
Right now I’m especially gearing up for our Ascension service. I’ve always had a service on Ascension wherever I’ve been, even though they’re not always well attended. This year we’ve invited our area congregations to join us and with our combined efforts hope to have a service fitting for this high festival. It seems that every year I appreciate the significance of Jesus’ ascension even more.

Next week I’ll be heading to Flagstaff Arizona for pastor’s conference. In a few week, we’ll have confirmation here. And just after that school will be out for another year. Wow, it’s gone by fast.

Daily Prayers

I just love beginning the day with:

O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, you have brought us safely to this new day. Defend us with your mighty power and grant that this day we neither fall into sin nor run into any kind of danger; and in all we do direct us to what is right in your sight, through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.

[Prayer for Grace, in Morning Praise which we sing for school chapel on Fridays.]

And ending the day with:

I thank you, my heaveny Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have graciously kept me this day. Forgive me all my sins, and graciously keep me this night. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me.

[Luther’s Evening Prayer, with the kids at bedtime.]

It certainly makes me think differently about everything that happens in between.

Our Schools

Lieder-PerlenSince school has been in session for over a month now, I've been thinking quite a bit about Lutheran schools in general and ours in particular. I've been thinking about the strengths of our schools (as opposed to public schools as well as to other Christian or private schools). I've also thought about the relationship between our churches and our schools.

I could go on and on about these two topics, but let me just share some observations from this title page of on of the books on my shelf. It's from a music book (copyright 1894) that I got from my great-uncle George after he died.

If you can't read German or Fraktur script, the title page explains that the book is a mixed collection of songs, sacred and secular, German and English, in various parts. But then it states the book's intended use: "for our schools." 

Observation #1: Our schools are a part of our churches. The mission of our schools flow from the mission of our churches. That is reason for supporting them.

Observation #2: Lutherans have been at this for a long time. Yes, things have changed over the years. But Lutherans (all the way back to Luther himself) have always seen Christian education as a key part of our work.

Observation #3: Music has an invaluable place in our Lutheran schools. It has a place in education because it's a good teacher. It has a place in Christian education because it proclaims the gospel to our students and it gives our students the opportunity to proclaim the gospel to others at worship. And then it also prepares them for a lifetime of gospel proclamation through music—for themselves and for others in corporate worship.

Regarding this last observation, I am very excited to use a new resource video that was recently published called Children Making Music. I hope that things like this go a long way to building interest in children and music in general. But I believe that is a step in the right direction to help build awareness of the role music plays in the proclamation of the gospel. 

Like I said, I could go on and on about these things. But it is a topic that is dear to my heart and a big part of my current role.