Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Coalition Partners Implore Governor, Speaker to Back Private Schools

Roman Catholic Church leaders are pushing a proposal to expand the state education tax credit to $1000 from the current $500 in Illinois, according to a report in the Catholic New World, the newsweekly of the archdiocese of Chicago.

Archbishop Blaise Cupich wrote a letter in recent weeks which urged Catholics in Northern Illinois to contact their legislators in support of the tax credit, which applies to children enrolled in a private school for grades K-12. The credit would also be expanded to those who create scholarships for up to $1000 for children.

Private schools, the archbishop said, are a place “of hope and learning and a beacon of safety in our communities.”

The church has organized a coalition to pursue the legislative reform that would create the improved tax credit regime, called the Illinois Kids Campaign.

Even though the state is currently operating without an approved budget, the new fiscal year started on July 1 without agreement from Speaker Madigan or Governor Rauner on budget terms, the church is going to continue lobbying on the matter, the newspaper reported.


UK: Private schools freeze fees to aid the 'squeezed' middle class

Independent schools are slashing or freezing fees from next term as middle-class parents struggle to pay for their children’s education.

A rising number of fee-paying schools are looking at ways to lure back their traditional customers who have been pushed out by soaring fees, The Telegraph has learnt. It follows calls for public schools to behave more like grocery discounters such as Aldi and offer a budget option.

Earlier this month, Robin Fletcher, the head of the Boarding Schools Association, said private schools needed to focus on offering a premium product at a more affordable price.

There are only a small number of schools that can support pupils with the level of scholarships and bursaries now required – as such the level of fees is paramount

Westonbirt School, an independent day and boarding school in Gloucestershire for girls aged 11-18, is freezing its £29,550-a-year fees for the next academic year.

The school’s headteacher, Natasha Dangerfield, said: “There are only a small number of schools that can support pupils with the level of scholarships and bursaries now required – as such the level of fees is paramount.”

St John’s International School, a day and boarding school in Devon, is following suit by freezing fees from September. Simon Larter, headteacher at the £12,000-a-year school, said he decided to freeze fees to “make them more affordable for our local parents”.  He said: “I am well aware that parents make huge sacrifices for their children. It is our way to ease the burden.”

Other schools freezing fees include Wrekin College in Shropshire, West Buckland School in Devon and Moyles Court School in the New Forest.

King’s College School in London is actually raising fees by 1.9 per cent – but this is the lowest rise in recent memory. Andrew Halls, the headmaster, said: “This low fee rise comes despite the fact we are, like almost all independent schools, affected by the rise in employer pension and National Insurance contributions.”

Earlier this year, Tony Little, the outgoing head of Eton College, said school fees have become too pricey for “squeezed” families.


Ancient tongue that forged the modern mind

The last state school to teach classical Greek at A-level has announced it will no longer do so. That’s not just a shame, argues Harry Mount – it’s a mistake

One afternoon last autumn, I had a revelation that took me back 25 years, to my school days.

I was on the Sacred Way in Ephesus, one of the great cities of the ancient world, on Turkey’s western coast. One marble column had the jolly line “Agathe tuche” – “Good luck”. Suddenly, all those years spent learning Greek vocabulary at Westminster School clicked into super-sharp focus.

Those two words are simple enough – but what a lot of useful baggage they carried. I remembered my old Greek teacher telling me that agathos (“good”) is behind the name Agatha – literally “good girl”. I remember, too, him teaching that agathos meant “brave”.

The equation between bravery and goodness in ancient Greece wasn’t accidental. And I remember, also, learning about the power of tuche in ancient Greece, where luck was seen as an elemental, near-divine force.

In that snap second, I realised how crammed with information those Greek lessons had been; how ideas that seemed unrelated, and irrelevant to my Eighties teenage life, were bound together in an intricate web that spread across the millennia and bound the present to the distant past.

Again and again, as I travelled in Odysseus’s wake around Homer’s Greece over the past three years researching my new book, I thanked the gods for a rigorous education in the fundamental language of western European civilisation.

In Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, Hector, the inspirational gay teacher with the Trojan hero’s name, talks about the power of great books: when a writer stretches his hand out from the pages and you reach out to take it in recognition.

Homer’s is the oldest, grizzliest hand of all. Time after time, he stretches it out and you think, “Yes, that’s what the sea looks like; that’s how a deep sleep feels; that’s the horror of loneliness.”

I never knew I’d stumble upon these magical connections when I was slogging through the present passive of luo at school. I wasn’t wrong to find Greek difficult as a child; there’s a reason that people say, “It’s all Greek to me.” The language just is tricky, principally because it’s in a different script from English, unlike Latin.

Greek also has more inflections, or changing word endings, than Latin. The average Latin verb has more than 200 endings; English verbs rarely have more than five. Greek ones can have well over a thousand.

Greek has lots of forms not used in English, among them the optative: a type of verb used to express wish or desire. It also has the dual: a word used only of two people or objects. Useless in modern English – although the writer Stanley Johnson, father of Boris, told me he longed for a dual to argue against his wife and one of his daughters when they ganged up on him.

Greek has the same Indo-European origin as Latin – and, indeed, Sanskrit, Teutonic and Celtic. But, even though it came before Latin, it is more flexible in expression and meaning. It has more participles – 10 to Latin’s three – allowing for more subordinate clauses. And it has a whole pack of conjunctions that flip sentences on their head and alter their meaning.

Ancient Greek also had different pitches – marked from the third century BC with circumflex, grave and acute accents – making the language extremely musical. Sappho’s poetry had the devilish Mixolydian mode, with note pitches at quarter-tone intervals – as early as the seventh century BC.

All this was a little impenetrable to me at Westminster; even more so at my north London prep school, North Bridge House, where I started learning Greek at 11. But oh, how much joy Greek has generated in me in later life. It was hard-won joy, admittedly. There were years – decades – in the dogged accumulation of the seeds of knowledge, before the appreciation of the fully grown plants could develop.

Now I’m so grateful I wasn’t fed a dumbed-down, supposedly accessible version of classics. Watered-down Greek is the opposite of accessible – it provides access to nothing. Without those long, slow hours, forcing down the vocab and the verb endings, I would never have punctured that hard skin wrapped around the core of Greek, and discovered the beauty within.

How tragic it is that earlier this year Camden School for Girls, the last British comprehensive offering Greek A-level, announced it could no longer afford to do so.

It was only through understanding Greek, and Latin that I also understood the relation between Greece and Rome. Back at Ephesus, Latin inscriptions were rarer than Greek ones. Even though Ephesus became a Roman city in 129BC, under the Romans the Ephesians spoke a mixture of Latin, Phrygian, Lydian, Old Anatolian and Greek.

Greek dominates the inscriptions on Ephesus’s houses, statues and temples. Latin was largely confined to official imperial buildings, such as the grand gate of Mazeus and Mithridates, built by two freed slaves in AD 40 in honour of the emperor Augustus.

The inscription on the gate reads, “Mazeus and Mithridates dedicate this to the son of the divine Julius Caesar, to the greatest priest, Augustus, who was consul 12 times, and tribune 20 times; and to Livia, wife of Augustus; and to Marcus Agrippa, consul three times, and tribune six times; and to Julia, daughter of Caesar Augustus.”

I got the picture: formal, highfalutin inscriptions were written in Latin; easy-going, good-luck messages were in Greek. If you know Greek, you don’t just know the fundamental western European language, you also know the language in which so many firsts were written – the first tragedy; the first comedy; even, as Milan Kundera said, the first novel, the Odyssey.

Greek is often the first Рor at least the earliest surviving Рlanguage in which so many emotions and thoughts are framed. Because Greek got there first, you get ultra-pure, inherently original descriptions, free of cliché or imitation.

Soon after I finished my odyssey, I read an interview with Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the best classicist in the Vatican. “You don’t study Latin or Greek to speak them,” he said. “You do so to come in direct contact with the civilisation of two peoples who were the bedrock of modern society; that is, you study them to be yourself and to know yourself.”

I used to scoff at the overblown claims for a dead language. Now I appreciate the resounding truth: the Greeks created the modern European world – and mind.

Modern Greece has come down in the world since it was the cockpit of Western art, architecture, literature and politics. But on my travels, the colossal ghosts of the greatest civilisation, and language, of them all flickered into real, tangible life.


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