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The Craze for Certamen

Ryan Spice| March 19, 2019

Classical, Christian education follows a different blueprint than other educational models, because the goals are ultimately different. We want students to enjoy and reflect God’s truth and beauty, and we strive to do this by challenging them with meaningful and awe-inspiring ideas. We want our students to love what they are learning and develop the critical thinking skills that will ignite and foster their own pursuit of knowledge. Our goal is for students to excel in a robust academic experience, while also being inspired by God’s glory and being challenged to live virtuous lives.

A visit to Covenant is bound to exhibit that our students are excited about learning. They love solving math problems on whiteboards, and they cheer when we practice vocabulary in Latin. Some students spend every free moment of their time solving Rubik’s cubes or memorizing 300 digits of pi. In class, students ask me so many questions about math, languages, and other topics that I have to ask them submit their questions in writing for me to answer later. Our students simply love to learn!

This excitement is also reflected in our Certamen Program. Certamen (pronounced care-TA-men, the Latin word for competition) is a classics-based, quiz bowl-style trivia competition. Contestants race to hit a buzzer and answer questions about Latin grammar, Roman history and culture, Greco-Roman mythology, and more. Since we started Certamen at Covenant two years ago, the hallways have teemed with interest in the club. The day after a meet, word spreads quickly of how our team placed, and friends eagerly declare to each other which answers they knew and which they almost knew. Competitors implore their classmates to join next year, because it’s just that fun.

It’s not only a love of learning that Certamen brings to the table. More than twenty schools in Illinois and over a thousand nationwide teach the classics and participate in Certamen. Through Certamen, our students connect with this community and build relationships with other students who share an interest in the classics. Certamen provides a healthy competitive atmosphere and a camaraderie between our students and those outside of our school.

A common question that arises when introducing new people to classical education is “Why Latin?” I think the excitement on the faces of our students during Certamen is one of the most compelling arguments we can provide.

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