Forward With Classics

Bloomsbury Academic

ISBN 9781474297677

Published 9th August 2018

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Despite their removal from England's National Curriculum in 1988, and claims of elitism, Latin and Greek are increasingly re-entering the 'mainstream' educational arena. Since 2012, there have been more students in state-maintained schools in England studying classical subjects than in independent schools, and the number of schools offering Classics continues to rise in the state-maintained sector. The teaching and learning of Latin and Greek is not, however, confined to the classroom: community-based learning for adults and children is facilitated in newly established regional Classics hubs in evenings and at weekends, in universities as part of outreach, and even in parks and in prisons.

This book investigates the motivations of teachers and learners behind the rise of Classics in the classroom and in communities, and explores ways in which knowledge of classical languages is considered valuable for diverse learners in the 21st century. The role of classical languages within the English educational policy landscape is examined, as new possibilities exist for introducing Latin and Greek into school curricula. The state of Classics education internationally is also investigated, with case studies presenting the status quo in policy and practice from Australasia, North America, the rest of Europe and worldwide. The priorities for the future of Classics education in these diverse locations are compared and contrasted by the editors, who conjecture what strategies are conducive to success.

Reviews

“This collection of essays will be essential reading for anyone determined to open up the ancient world in schools or elsewhere: it contains an invaluable fund of practical ideas to advance the cause ... A most heartening compilation, coming at exactly the right moment.”

Classics for All Reviews

 

“A clear and comprehensive portrayal of the current state of classics in education … Teachers of classics from any location who are seeking to promote classical learning will not only find the country specific chapters helpful, but will also benefit from the methods and strategies presented throughout the volume … This book will be an encouragement to all educators in classics. The authors speak to an international audience at the same time that they address local populations and differing curricula and motivations. While acknowledging the challenges inherent in teaching classics, they reveal that communities and students continue to benefit from classical learning, and they present a realistic yet hopeful outlook for its future.”

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

“A pioneering collection offering analysis, reflection and advice from people who really know about delivering classical education in multiple contexts (from schools to prisons) across the globe, electronically and face-to-face, from Tower Hamlets to São Paolo. A must-read for anyone interested in how the subject will survive the next 100 years.”

Tim Whitmarsh, Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge, UK

'In the first section Steven Hunt, one of the foremost writers on Latin pedagogy in the UK, contributes two essays, one at the beginning that provides the history of UK educational policy and its conflicting views of Classics, both as a discipline that can help students achieve academically, and as a discipline that is out of step with academic subjects that encourage diversity and globalism. The ever-shifting nature of politics makes it difficult to predict where governmental policy will position our field, but he demonstrates the tug-of-war playing out in the last few decades between these two perspectives. At the end of this section on social policies, Hunt provides his observation of what he saw at a Paideia Living Latin Conference in New York in 2016 and at ACL workshops in 2015 and 2017. He provides a brief summary of the Comprehensible Input approach and describes his own attempts to try it. He asks the questions which many observers echo regarding the extent to which CI methods move students toward reading classical authors. He raises questions about the materials used in the CI classroom, such as the novella that is growing in popularity (103): “is it teaching students how to read Latin … or is it giving just the pretence of reading?” Despite any reservations, however, he concludes that such engaging communicative methods may invigorate the discipline, a consensus that is growing particularly among Latin teachers in many parts of the United States....Arlene Homes-Henderson and Kathryn Tempest discusses how Classics is a field that helps students form the skills they need to compete and achieve in the always evolving, global workplace...Hall laments the chasm that has developed between those who promote linguistic knowledge as the defining element of Classics, and those who view studies in translation a viable track within the discipline. She closes the essay with this admonition (259): “As we move forward with Classics today, the battle-lines…which made language acquisition and reading in translation…antithetical rather than intersecting and mutually complementary, need to vanish from our horizons altogether.” We in the United States, with our own causes for concern about the future of our discipline, can gain some valuable insights from this volume.'

New England Classical Journal 46.1 - Spring 2019

Teresa Ramsby, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

The Classical Journal Online

 

Reviewed by Ariana Traill,University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (traill@illinois.edu)

Anyone planning a class activity around Hannibal's crossing of the Alps will be hard pressed to beat "Vita Hannibalis SPQR Day," sponsored by the University of Pretoria's Academia Latina in the 1980s. Four elephants wearing SPQR cloaks attracted so much attention that they caused a traffic jam. The photograph (Fig. 12.3) tells it all.

 

This collection surveys the state of classics in K-12 education world wide: from places where Classics is barely holding on (the Academia Latina, despite its effectiveness in bridging "the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged" [Schumann and Theron, 182] unfortunately closed in 2017) to places like the Netherlands, where it is so firmly ensconced that a web site exists to help former gymnasium students keep up their Latin and Greek - for fun (www.addisco.nl, Bulwer,75). An enviable situation, indeed.

 

There is politics to this, of course. Latin is unassailable in Italy; ancient Greek, in Greece. European Classics as a whole is boosted by the EU's Lisbon Treaty recommendation that students learn "one plus two languages" (Bulwer, 77), i.e., their native language and two second languages. In Germany, this has helped put Latin in third place after English and French. Conversely, France saw a decline after a recent national decision to reduce the hours for Latin and Greek in schools. The problems are familiar: determined political opposition, charges of elitism - "that Classics has always been for 'toffs,'" Beard, xv) - or mere irrelevance. Classically educated politician, and now prime minister, Boris Johnson has given some of these myths new currency, famously disparaging Classical Civilization as not "crunchy" enough as a subject (Hunt, 16).

 

The best answer to all of this is exactly what Forward with Classics offers: example after example of Classics programs succeeding with all kinds of people: an Odyssey storytelling project in Spennymoor, a former coal town among the "top 20 per cent most deprived areas nationally" (Richards, 193); "Latin in the Park," open-air Latin classes at an affordable one pound each, sponsored by the University of Swansea (Bracke, 198-9); or OxLAT, a Saturday class for children from low income households run by Oxford University. Even more ambitious, "Projecto Minimus," sponsored by the University of São Paolo, has been teaching Classics in a nearby school for five years. All fourth graders learn from Minimus (translated into Portuguese); fifth graders learn from a version of Athenaze. Success was not easy. The school has two shifts and operates in two enormous multi-grade rooms. Many children read below grade level or have special needs. Yet despite all cohorts of up to twenty teachers at a time (mostly undergraduates) have worked with the school's system and won over the students. "After a couple of classes most pupils love it" (da Cunha Corrêa, 63). 

 

This collection offers a wealth of good advice: non-specialist teachers can play a huge role in bringing Latin into schools; programs in the regular curriculum last longer than extracurriculars; senior school administrators need to be on board; and effective outreach programs are the ones that show "long-term ongoing engagement and support" (Searle, 29). There are handy resources, like the Open University's free online beginning Latin course or the online game Hadrian: The Roamin' Emperor (players move Hadrian around the Roman world while answering educational questions). Ideas worth stealing include the "healing and poison stall" created by the Iris Project for visiting schoolchildren, complete with "the opportunity to have fresh wounds painted onto arms and faces" (Robinson, 151). Need I say more?

 

There are some gems, like Edith Hall's "Classics in our Ancestors' Communities," which profiles a colorful and impressive cast of working class Classicists, and Arlene Holmes-Henderson's and Kathryn Tempest's "Classics and Twenty-First Century Skills," which explains how to label the skills students learn in Classics courses for employers by using the Ceth Employability Framework. For example, students in "An Introduction to Classical Civilization" taught at the University of Roehampton, said they saw improvement in communication skills (96.4%) and self management (92.9%) (237). It is important to be able to talk about these benefits. At the same time, however, we should acknowledge that other humanities fields teach many of these same skills and we should be able to articulate what is unique to Classics. One compelling theme of this collection (pace, Boris) is its resolute defense of Classical Civilization - for (among other things) its breadth as a subject, its wide skill set and the "clean-slate" neutrality it offers for exploring cultural differences.

 

The level of research is high. Most chapters have extensive bibliographies. Coverage could be a little more comprehensive. There is no discussion, for example, of India or Asia. For readers outside the U.K., there is a lot of British politics, not to mention acronyms, technical terms and slang (see "toff," above). The sole chapter on the U.S. presents it as a haven where teachers pursue their own curricula and where admirable methods like comprehensible input flourish. In fact, the authors wonder that grammar-translation is still popular, "often to the detriment of the students' engagement and success" (Holmes-Henderson et al., 269), despite Wing-Davey's chapter praising "The Latin Programme," which achieved success in inner city London schools by applying the (grammar-heavy) methods of Dr. Richard Gilder III. It is hard to disagree with her: "Like Shakespeare, [Latin] withstands a myriad of approaches, from the reverent to the iconoclastic, yet cannot but retain its essential worth" (123).

Charlotte Tournier: Anabases. In French here.

© copyright Steven Hunt 2020