LATIN IS, among other things, an interscholastic sport, and Fairfax County's Woodson High School has once again cleaned up the Virginia state championships. Now the team prepares for the national competition in August. Through the first half of the summer the youngsters will work all morning, five days a week, in the trailer classroom known as the Latin hut. The team works out with other kids, from Woodson and other schools, who have come to think that pursuing the classics is an interesting and engaging way to spend summer mornings. You would be correct in suspecting that all this has a lot to do with their teacher and coach, Maureen O'Donnell.
Woodson is a school that takes these things seriously. It awards varsity letters to the Latin team, as it does to the football team, and with good reason. The National Latin Examination was held last month and, throughout this country and several others, some 36,000 students took it. There were 62 papers with perfect scores and 11 of them, an astounding proportion, came from one school--Woodson.
As the subject is taught there, and as it is pursued in these competitions, it is not limited to the grammar and the labored translations that certain readers will doubtless remember with little affection from their own high school years. It is also Roman mythology, history and literature. That puts exceptional demands on the school's two Latin teachers, Mrs. O'Donnell and Delores Amico. But the results have been spectacular.
Evidently there are interesting exceptions to those familiar complaints about declining standards of high school teaching, and the lack of interest in languages. You can regard these brief paragraphs, in the automobile industry's term, as a recall notice: certain models of generalization have been found to require adjustments, and tightening. You can also regard these paragraphs as a note of gratitude to those teachers, not only at Woodson High, who are succeeding in conveying to young students the magnetic force of the high cultural traditions.