To master Latin, carpe diem Courses: They come, they see, they try to conquer the ancient languages of Latin and Greek in Professor Jay Freyman's classes at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The Education Beat

March 11, 1998|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

"CHARTER" SCHOOLS IN MARYLAND — AT 8: 15 A.M. it's eerily quiet on the campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. You enter the ground floor of Academic IV Building, and from way down the deserted hallway you hear Professor Jay Freyman reading Cicero -- in Latin -- on the ethics of waging war.

This is elementary Latin, an honors course combining two

semesters in one. It meets five mornings a week at 8.

The reason he teaches so early in the day, the professor says, is that there's not so much demand on his time -- or on that of his students. None of the 15 scholars in this class has missed a day since the semester began in January, Freyman says.

"It's the hardest course I've ever taken," says Heather Butler, 23, who is called upon to offer her translation of a passage -- the homework from the day before -- while Freyman takes notes on her performance. "He expects a lot of us. He expects us to perform," says Butler, a senior psychology major. "You get up for professors like him."

Freyman, a 55-year-old Woody Allen look-alike, leaves his Reisterstown home shortly after 5 a.m. He commutes to the Catonsville campus by bus and subway.

After elementary Latin, he'll walk to another building for a course in medieval Latin. Now it's 9 o'clock, and 19 students, some without socks but all wide awake, are deep in a 4th-century novel that Freyman tells a visitor "contains all of the deadly sins."

One student in this class, Shirley Ownes, 80, has driven from Charlestown Retirement Community. She says she's been taking Freyman's courses in Latin and Greek for 10 years.

Freyman is known in Maryland higher education circles as the man who saved the classics at UMBC. When the University of Maryland tried to cut programs with low enrollment a few years ago, the professor, with a lot of help from his friends, convinced the bottom-liners that Winston Churchill was right. "I would make them all learn English," Churchill said, "and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honor, and Greek as a treat."

Freyman is one of five professors in UMBC's ancient studies department (two are archaeologists and one a historian), but he's also in charge of UMBC's honors program. That would relieve most senior professors of teaching assignments -- particularly at an hour when tenured professors are just stirring in their beds -- but Freyman says teaching is "a profound satisfaction."

Freyman finds beauty and wisdom in antiquity. Relatively few people actually speak the languages, but the large majority of English words have Latin and Greek roots, and the study of Latin and Greek "gets you to think structurally about language."

Then there's what we learn about culture. "The study of Latin or Greek," Freyman says, "is now seen as an end in itself. You learn these languages in order to find out something about the culture that used them as the primary means of communication."

Freyman is the antidote to the business juggernaut in higher education. The profit-making University of Phoenix, with its "customer-convenient" after-work hours and its mass production of courses designed to help computer technicians and engineers earn promotions, is at one end of the spectrum. Freyman and his sock-less 8 o'clock scholars, studying the "jussive subjunctive" in a passage from Cicero, are at the other.

"Our motto," the professor says, "is that we learn for living, not just for making a living."

Md. mathematics standards get a solid F in report

The Fordham Foundation, which a couple of weeks ago gave poor grades to Maryland's public school standards in history and geography, graded the state in mathematics yesterday. We got 3 points of a possible 16 -- a solid F.

Maryland standards in math are too vague, the foundation report said, and the "real world" applications "overwhelm intellectual content."

Gallaudet president to lead celebratory march

Exactly 10 years ago, student protests closed Gallaudet University in Washington for a week after the school's board of trustees named a hearing person president of the world's only university for deaf students.

The protesters prevailed. This afternoon, I. King Jordan, Gallaudet's first deaf president, will lead a celebration march from the campus to the Capitol.

Assembly weighing bill on funds for charter schools

"Charter" schools in Maryland -- schools operated independently but funded publicly -- aren't eligible for grants from an $80 million federal charter school fund. The reason is that the state legislature hasn't approved the concept. A bill in committee in the General Assembly would change that.

Pub Date: 3/11/98

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