> “Sacred language?” he said when asked about Latin as the “sacred language” of the church. “In the first century every prostitute in Rome spoke it fluently—and much better than most people in the Roman Curia.”
And on his pedagogy:
> What was it that was so revolutionary in Foster’s approach? Some sense of what the experience was like can be found in his new book, the Ossa Latinitatis. The book is divided not into chapters or lessons but “experiences” and “encounters.” The language is significant. Foster’s method was primarily to be present in the room when exposing students to real Latin. He would settle on one particular thing he wanted students to look for, cold-call, and then correct mistakes publicly. About this method he said, “You don’t need a hydrology course to learn to swim. You don’t point at the water and say, ‘This is water, this is how water works.’ you just throw the babies in.”...
> Foster’s method put back together what language courses generally separate: the experience of learning a language and the cultural value of knowing it.
I think a lot of programming and computer science education has moved in this direction, but it's notable that Foster isn't just throwing the babies in to make todo list apps -- they're reading the erudite giants of two millennia of Latin literature. What would a "Great Works" version of a programing or computer science curriculum look like?
(Comment disclaimer: I'm a classmate and friend of the author, a remarkable man in his own right; a Princeton graduate and fluent Latin speaker who lives with his family in a cabin without running water or electricity.)
Then, as you suggest, you are unfamiliar with the Church or the state of Catholic clergy. There is variation up and down the hierarchy. The image you have in mind is comical and Hollywoodesque.
“You don’t need a hydrology course to learn to swim"
Naturally. There is a difference in learning the language and studying the language. The aim of the first is fluency ad facility. The aim of the second is understanding of the language as such. A native English speaker may have a poorer theoretical grasp of the his own language than a non-native speaker, but he can have greater fluency. The two, of course, can mutually reinforce one another and often do.
Ah now, that is a very good question. Some names come to mind: Turing, Church, Goedel, and also Djikstra, Knuth, Ableson & Sussman.
Knuth (esp his bibliography) in "The Art of Computer Programming" is probably the richest source of possibilities. He has said himself that he enjoys "surrounding" a problem completely, and he is incredibly well read. And apparently entirely devoted to CS, without much to distract him (except, perhaps, some organ playing). Vol. 2 ("Seminumerical Algorithms") with it's straddling of machine and math is particularly representative of a foundational text, IMHO.
And yet, all of these are works about CS. Virgil didn't write about Latin, he wrote in Latin. So what are the great works, then? "Phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny" so you could begin with the smallest pieces of code that run when you provide power to the computer, understand them, write your own variants of them, and then work your way through every 'level of code' until you get to a working operating system. Then you'd work your way through important processes like databases, virtual machines, and graphics. (I believe something like that could be achieved with 4 years of stringent effort by an 18-year-old.)
In 6.004, you start by learning about the digital abstraction and MOSFETs, then go on to logic gates, flip-flops, pipelining, instruction sets, and halfway through the course you use a circuit simulator to build a RISC processor called the Beta. Then you go on to I/O buses, virtual memory, and interrupts, and at the end of the course you can compile C programs for the Beta.
To get from having a processor to having a self-contained programming environment, you could work through a variation on jonesforth . (You'd have to port it from i386 to the Beta if you wanted to keep the same architecture.)
In the first century, the Latin that was spoken in the streets of Rome (the Vulgar Latin) was very different from the literary Latin used in books, speeches, and other kinds of formal writing - which is what one learns from today's textbooks. (The same was true for Greek and also for languages of many, if not all, other "civilized" communities of the time; it is still true for some of the languages spoken today.)
[Edit: Sorry for the misplaced comment.]
have for some time been available at this site:
The article specifically mentions that Fr. Foster's book is ill-suited to self learners and is more appropriate for a classroom setting.