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The Association for Latin Teaching

Newsletter 25: May 2005


Dear Classical Friend,


In this newsletter:

A proposal about GCSE and A level Latin texts

News from two schools, with a notice about the Monmouth Classics Study Day

A new page on the web site - links to school Classics Departments

Criticism of the ARLT web site

Will there be book reviews on the ARLT Blog?

The Summer School

Another reminder that the up-to-date news and comment is now to be found on the ARLT Blog at http://blog.arlt.co.uk/blog . Do join the growing number who have registered to receive an e-mail, when a new item on whichever topic you choose is posted. Now, to our muttons.


Public exams almost upon us. The June Classical Calendar http://pub22.bravenet.com/calendar/show.php?usernum=1830027060&y=2005&m=06&d=17 is peppered with Classical exams. (We know that, David - get on with it!) Now could be a good time to pass on to you a paper by Brian Bishop pleading for a broadening of the definition of authors fit-to-be-examined.


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GCSE and AS/A2 Latin texts - a proposal by Brian Bishop

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Now that there has been some reduction in Latin examination specifications, it is time to maintain standards, at the same time making Latin examinations more amenable to candidates.


The cause for concern in this matter lays in the term 'Classical' and especially, in the context of Latin, the pejorative term "dead language". This conjures for students, and even for educationalists, concepts of "no longer relevant", "unattainable", "not worthwhile today". The term 'Classical' has killed many works, inventions, music. In any case, more Ciceronian-style Latin has been written since than during Classical times. A recognition of the universal and perpetual relevance of Latin will make it more attractive to teachers, examiners and, more importantly, students.


The following proposals are capable of being introduced gradually in turn, in the light of experience, first to GCSE texts for translation into English, then to AS/A2 texts for translation, then to GCSE literature prescriptions and finally to AS/A2 literature prescriptions.


Texts currently used in examination papers for translation into English appear under the names of Classical authors. They are, however, "adapted", "abridged" or "excerpted" until they are virtually new, uninspired, uninspiring, bereft of any Classical flavour. Post-classical texts would require less, if any, modification for translations.


Post-classical texts have many advantages. They enlarge the field of selection. They deal with practical matters, nearer to today and possibly from the student's own country. They link to other studies, such as national and local history, the development of art, musicology, sciences. The subject matter is more readily understandable, though the language demands the same application. They are inherently more interesting. They complement studies of other historical periods. In terms of objectives related to European Union familiarization, it should be recalled that Latin has been the continent's common language.


The standard of the language is Classical, the model is Cicero. Even if one accepts that the canon of Classical authors currently selected for translation or study has never since been surpassed in quality -- a view that is arguable -- the corpus of passages available from post-Classical authors is at least equal in quality. Furthermore, the more "linear" style of many post-Classics has a simple elegance that can be more readily understood and appreciated by younger and earlier students. On the other hand the artificial sophistication of most of the Classics requires the same degree of experience as their original audience, for whom the language was their first, and who had undergone many years of concentrated endeavour. Other language examinations do not expect students at these levels to tackle equivalent elegant writers.


Texts are already readily available in current study publications: 'Ecce scriptores romani', 'Ecce romani' vol. 5, 'Cambridge Latin anthology', 'Vivus per ora'. Others can readily be acquired through anthologies and texts in print and on the Internet. Neo-Latin studies in universities (e.g. the Cambridge Society for Neo-Latin Studies, who agree with these proposals) would provide other sources of texts and advice.


AQA have informed me, "We actually attempted to get some post-Classical texts in our revised GCSE Latin Specification and QCA immediately came back to us and refused to approve the Specification unless this was changed!"


There are no grounds for the QCA refusal. There is no compromise in quality. Perhaps the most relevant document in this context is the QCA booklet 'Classics in the curriculum', first published 1997, where Dr. Peter Jones defined the scope of the curriculum. When I spoke with Dr. Jones at an ARLT Summer School, he agreed that what was written was not intended to preclude post-Classical material.


At the risk of dropping another name by summarizing, I quote from Professor Terence Tunberg of Kentucky University:


"In many regions of the world (especially English-speaking countries) Latin language and literature is taught principally in the context of ancient Roman culture. In actual fact Latin literature written in post-antique times is not only infinitely larger in bulk and much more varied than ancient Latin, but some of the greatest and most influential masterpieces of Latin were written in Mediaeval and early Modern times. Students at all levels from secondary school to university should encounter Latin as a great European language, with its origins in Rome. They should, of course, read some classical texts, but they should also read substantial selections from Mediaeval and Modern Latin".


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Two responses from teachers who registered on the ARLT site

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From King's School, Rochester

Dear David


There are two of us flying the flag and we teach CC, Greek and Latin, from year 7 through to year 13. Latin is, if not flourishing, then healthy enough. Greek excites interest and CC is, of course, fairly popular. Our headmaster is a cultured man who appreciates the value of the Classics, and frequently demonstrates his commitment.


regards


Terry Walsh


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From Jayne Treasure, Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls

We are very fortunate in my school to have a very supportive Headmistress. Nevertheless, as Classicists, we always feel under siege.


Would you be kind enough to mention our annual Study Day in Monmouth. This is our tenth year. On November 17th, 2005, we have invited the following speakers - Richard Buxton (Tragedy), Jeremy Paterson (Virgil), Oliver Dickinson (Greek Pottery) and Scott Scullion (Homer). All details will soon be available on our school website. http://www.habs-monmouth.org/index.cfm?alias=Classic-SC


We usually manage to attract an audience of about 150.


I am very happy to take individual queries on jatpenallt@yahoo.co.uk.


It is good to know that there is a network. I attended the JACT/BSA tour of Greece in the Easter holidays and met some real allies! I don't know why I have not registered before!


Best wishes,


Jayne

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A new page on the ARLT web site

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I have set up a page on the ARLT web site listing Classics Department web sites that I know of. I have divided them into two groups, big ones and small (usually single page) ones, and have added a list of a few schools that I know teach Classics but for which I have not yet found a departmental web site. The page address is: /home/arltcouk/public_html/departmental_sites.php


The objects of the page are:

To give ideas for anyone setting up or expanding their departmental site;

To encourage each other with another reminder that We Are Not Alone.

Two of the larger sites belong to no school - they used to, but the teachers have retired or moved on, and have deliberately left the sites there to be copied, plundered, what-have-you. The teachers are Wilf O'Neill and David Swift. Worth investigating. I have noticed one live school site that has used some of David Swift's pictures - good, that's what they're there for!


Do use the page to browse other schools' sites, and let me know if yours is not on the list, or if there is a mistake.


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A rap over the knuckles for me

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I submitted the ARLT site a few months ago for inclusion in the National Grid for Learning (NGfL) and it was rejected, not on content but on design. They sent me a helpful critique, and I intend to redesign at least the header and footer so that the site passes the test when I try again.


Some of the requirements are (non-technically minded readers may skip this):


The site must conform to W3C standards (HTML 3.2, HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0 or higher). Every HTML page on the site must offer navigation to other pages within the site, such as the home page, so that the user is not required to navigate using the 'back' button.


The site must conform to Level A of the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative. Content that is intended to be downloadable should be saved in generic cross-platform formats where possible, for example RTF, CSV, TIF, PDF. You may provide downloadable files in proprietary formats in addition to a cross-platform non-proprietary format. The site home page must load in less than 30 seconds at a data rate of 35Kbps (the rate typically obtained through a 56Kbps dial-up modem).


In internet terms, the ARLT site is old. I shall have a busy summer redesigning it and teaching myself Cascading Style Sheets and suchlike. Meanwhile, please carry on using the old clunky site. 7,879 people have visited the site in May so far, and 31,111 people have visited the ARLTblog.


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I hope you approve - or is it going commercial?

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I was approached by someone from the American publishers Bolchazy-Carducci asking if I would be prepared to review any of their books on the ARLT blog. I pointed out the particular needs of British teachers, but I think we are going ahead and I shall be reviewing a book on Vergil soon. To be fair and impartial I shall have to be prepared to do the same for other publishers, if and when they approach me. It could be that I am so hard on the first book I get, that no one will want to ask me ever again!


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Don't forget the Summer School, will you?

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I don't know what the really, really last date for sending in your form for the Summer School is, but it must be very soon. Verb. sap. /home/arltcouk/public_html/arlt_db.php?catID=4


Best wishes,


David