When I was preparing for ordination and studying theology at Trinity College, Bristol, a couple of friends set up a new society that met a number of times until enthusiasm ran out.

Although the teaching was mostly great, and the theology, etc. was engaging, no course can cover everything. Some of us were interested in stuff that couldn’t be covered by the curriculum. And it was to provide a forum for discussion of such themes that we set up the Eutychus Society.

Eutychus was the young man in Acts 20 who fell asleep while listening to the apostle Paul who, the text says, “talked still longer”. He fell out of the window and died. The joke was that he was bored with Pauline theology, and so were we. Well, the last bit wasn’t true (of course), but we did want to fill some gaps.

The society met once a month (I think) in the evening. It was formal. One of us would present a paper, there would then be a break, and then there would be a discussion. I would then type up the text of the paper on my new Amstrad word processor (Locoscript, if anyone remembers that), and I would then edit the ‘journal’ – including the discussion – and it would be distributed. And that’s where it got weird.

We decided to call the journal ‘The Window’. Our logo, front and centre on the front cover, was an open window. We felt we needed a Latin motto to complete our credibility. The problem was that none of us had learned any Latin. So, as the resident linguist, I made one up: “Nils fallem ex fenestra” – Let us not fall out of the window”.

It was a joke, OK? It was several months in before a tutor who did know Latin spotted it and was not happy. So he put it into correct Latin (which I have now forgotten) and the society didn’t last too much longer.

I still have a copy of one of the journals somewhere. I did a paper on ‘Babel re-visited: the use and abuse of language by Christians’. It was partly lighthearted; but, it’s serious questions still haunt me today.

This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Who’d have thought that the Summer Silly Season would begin with a social media debate about Latin?

The Education Secretary’s announcement that Latin will once again be taught in 40 more state schools ignited an explosion of opinions about its value. The cynics see it as a nod to conservative nostalgia, others see it as utterly pointless – teaching children a dead language. I have to confess, my first reaction was: if Latin can make you as happy as Mary Beard and Tom Holland, why not make everyone do it?

But, there is a serious argument to be had about learning ancient languages – and I speak as a former professional linguist who didn’t learn Latin or Greek at school and regrets it.

Yes, it’s understandable that some people think it a waste of time to learn something that has no economic development potential (unless, of course, you happen to have invented the Asterix franchise – to which I say hic, haec, hoc). But, despite current assumptions, economic value is not the ultimate goal of civilisation or the acme of human meaning. Character cannot be cashed out.

Educating a person is not the same thing as training her for a job. And isn’t it strange that the term ‘vocational courses’ – from the Latin vocare, of course – now usually refers to technical qualifications? Are our children really destined only to be cogs in an economic wheel – commodities in a competitive market? Or are they people whose mind and imagination need essentially to be teased and stretched and ignited and kindled – because, in Christian terms, they are made in the image of God … to be creative?

I well remember my first day at university – studying French and German, but not very good at either.  The professor told us bluntly that there is no point speaking a foreign language if you have nothing to say in it.

This goes to the heart of what is known as the Wisdom Literature in the Bible. The book of Proverbs nails it in its opening words when the writer extols “learning about wisdom and instruction, … understanding words of insight, … gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice and equity…” So, when his contemporaries marvel at the wisdom of the young Jesus, this is the tradition that explains what they meant.

So, the learning of Latin is, in and of itself, not a useful end. But, it is a means to an end – opening up the mind and imagination; giving access to the wisdom and follies of past civilisations; reminding us what education is really for.

Producat illum, I say: bring it on.