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Extracts from "Latin Curriculum in the 1980's: Literacy and Cultural Awareness in a Global Perspective"

by Gilbert Lawall

[The following extracts from The Classical Outlook, December-January 1982?1983, pp. 35?36, are reprinted here with permission of the Editor of The Classical Outlook. They are part of a paper delivered at the Thirty-fourth Annual Institute of the American Classical League, held at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, in June 1981.]

There would . . . be a new twist to the second year with introduction of the Greek language and Greek culture. The Greek introduced at this level would include the alphabet, key Greek words, simple Greek sentences in culturally illustrative stories, and Greek bases and affixes in English word formation. The cultural material would parallel the Roman cultural material introduced in the first year, and it would include Greek mythology. Frequent contrasts would be made with Roman culture. In the second half of the year, special emphasis would be placed on the formative influence of Greek culture on the Romans and the Romans as transmitters of Greek culture to the Western world. The course might appropriately conclude with reading of selections in translation, adapted as necessary, from the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid, and a study of Achilles, Odysseus, and Aeneas as emblems of their respective cultures. . . . 

Greek language and culture are introduced in the second year for two reasons: 1) because of the large and extremely important influence of Greek upon English vocabulary (especially technical vocabulary), and 2) because of the necessity of introducing students to Greek culture and its transmission through Rome if they are going to develop an "understanding of Greco-Roman civilization and culture as a key to understanding ourselves and our place in the kaleidoscope of cultures in the contemporary world" (our fourth proposed objective above). This exploration of our cultural roots must take place in the Latin classroom or it will not take place at all in secondary schools, from most of which ancient history has long since disappeared as a separate subject. Further, by introducing Greek culture alongside of the Roman, we invite our students to compare two ancient cultures with one another in an objective, distanced perspective, while at the same time we are inviting them to compare and contrast these ancient cultures with their own immediate culture today. What better way to "sensitize students to other cultures, to the relativity of values, to appreciation of similarities among peoples and respect for the differences among them," as the report of the President's Commission urges (1979, 11)? What better way to give our students a "record of the ideals that have guided men and women in the past," to give them "historical perspective," and to make them "sensitive to what it might be like to live in a different time, place, or culture," thus allowing them to make their own "value choices without automatically assuming that contemporary reality has no precedent. . . . ," as the report of the Commission on the Humanities urges (1980, 30)? By contrasting Greek, Roman, and contemporary American culture, and thereby tracing the roots of Western civilization, the Latin program is making its unique and indispensable contribution to global or international studies. In reaching backwards to Greece and forwards to the Romance languages and English, the Latin program achieves a secure place for itself as the cornerstone of the language department in our fantasy school, which will be offering (if the recommendations of the President's Commission are implemented) not only Latin but also French, Spanish, German, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese. Through its Latin program the global language department will be firmly rooted to the Greco-Roman origins of language and culture in the Western world. . . . 

Latin III in our fantasy curriculum is for those who elect to continue their classical studies for their own personal enjoyment and enrichment, for the sheer pleasure of continuing to work with inflected languages, for the sheer fascination of continuing to explore the people and civilization of the ancient world, and as part of a sequence that would prepare for further study of the Classics in college. In the first half of the third year, the final third of the Latin grammar would be completed with continuing attention to all four skills and with a continuing emphasis on reading. In the second half of the year, readings would be done in a variety of specific Latin authors, chosen for their cultural as well as their literary value. Oral work would continue with emphasis on reading the Latin aloud with proper phrasing and expression and on recitation of memorized passages. Translation from English to Latin would be dropped, while translation from Latin to English would continue, with the specific aim of developing polished, elegant English renderings of the Latin authors being read. Culture study would be based on the readings in Latin. 

In the second half of the third year, the class would split into two groups, according to the choice of the pupils, one group continuing along full time with the Latin readings, while the other would spend half its time on Latin readings and devote the other half to beginning a systematic study of the Greek language. By diversifying the classroom activities, both groups could easily be accommodated in a single classroom with a single teacher. 

Latin IV in grade eleven and Latin V in grade twelve would continue this two-track arrangement, with some students doing just Latin and some doing Latin and Greek simultaneously. Latin III, IV, and V could easily be combined in a single classroom with individualized instruction and projects tailored to the interests of the individual students. The presence of Greek studies alongside of Latin in the third, fourth, and fifth years not only continues the pluralistic cultural horizons of the first and second years but also offers the exciting possibility of having all the students in the third, fourth, and fifth years doing some work in Greek literature as well as Latin. For example, even those who do not elect study of the Greek language could still read alongside of their Latin texts certain parallel Greek works in translation. Numerous possibilities suggest themselves, including reading of the Iliad and Odyssey in translation along with the Aeneid in Latin.

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Last updated: September 29, 2000. 
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