Greek philosopher inspires CVU student3/12/09

Hudson, Cory win awards from Classical Association of New England

March 12, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

While international headlines about global warming and a deadening economy portend a gloomy future, Williston resident Dylan Hudson looks for guidance from the past. The Champlain Valley Union High School senior recently wrote a 350-word paper explaining how Greek philosopher Epicurus’ teachings about leading a self-sufficient, happy life can apply to today’s world.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Champlain Valley Union High senior Dylan Hudson, pictured above, recently took first place in the Classical Association of New England’s annual writing contest.  

“As humanity edges toward an environmental breakdown from excessive consumption, we may want to consider looking deeper into our world for happiness, and deeper into our history for guidance,” Hudson wrote in the closing of his paper. “By a mere change in perception, we can find that less is often more. Culture may have changed, but the human condition remains the same.”

His paper won a first place award last month in the Classical Association of New England’s annual writing contest. Students taking Latin or classical studies courses were invited to submit short papers in various formats to be judged in the contest. But when Hudson wrote his piece, he wasn’t thinking of winning.

“I was just trying to get my homework done as fast as I could,” Hudson said with a laugh.

For Hudson, studying ancient languages, literature and philosophy has become a passion. He said it began when he took CVU history teacher Joe Greenwald’s Ancient Greece course last year. Hudson then took Latin, progressing all the way up to Latin III in a number of weeks. He is also currently taking an Ancient Greek language class at the University of Vermont — his second Greek class with the university.

Hudson’s Latin teacher at CVU, Lydia Batten, said the student picked up Latin at a rate faster than she’s used to seeing. Four weeks into Latin II last semester, Batten had Hudson take an advanced exam, which he passed with flying colors. Hudson was immediately allowed to take Latin III, she said.

“He’s sort of an entity all unto himself,” Batten said.

Batten assigned her Latin III classes to write a short piece that could be entered into the Classical Association’s contest. This year’s theme was “Living Antiquity: Classics and Modern Life;” students wrote poetry, fiction or essays elaborating on the topic.

Batten said the participating high school classics teachers chose the top three entries from their school, and then a state board chose the top three from Vermont. Finally, teachers from all over the region chose the winner, with Hudson coming out on top.

Batten said she’s proud of Hudson’s accomplishment, even as he’s being coy about the award.

“He’s being the usual teen and playing it cool,” Batten said.

Hudson will read his paper at the Classical Association’s annual conference in Boston later this month, with the organization paying for a hotel room and meals. He also receives a $200 savings bond.

Another of Batten’s Latin III students, Hinesburg junior Isaiah Cory, placed second in the Vermont portion of the contest. Cory said he wrote a science fiction piece in which Roman times meld into present day America. For Cory, learning Latin makes it easier to learn other languages. He said the class helped him immensely in English and Spanish classes, as well as on the SAT tests.

“I use (Latin) in everyday situations and it’s really helpful,” said Cory, who plans to continue his classical studies into college.

Hudson agrees that studying Latin and Ancient Greek can teach the world about modern day issues much more than people think — hence his paper on Epicureanism.

Hudson said he’s not sure what he wants to major in after he graduates from high school and attends UVM, where intends to enroll. But he knows his classical studies will be an important part of his learning, in any field of his choosing.

With the prevalence of Latin in science and medicine, Hudson said, “Everybody says to me, ‘You must be going to medical school,’ but I’m not sure yet.”