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AP Latin Literature Cancelled -- Please Add Your Name


As many of you know, AP Latin Literature is being cancelled, although AP Vergil will remain in place for the immediate future. Please read the letter from the AP in the news section on the right and the letter from Ronnie Ancona in the Blog, and if you feel strongly about keeping the AP Latin Literature program alive and active in the United States, please add a comment to this post with your name and school affiliation attached. I will collect these in preparation for what is sure to be a counter-offensive by some of the leading lights in US Classics education. Thanks for adding your names to the list.

Andrew Reinhard
Director of eLearning
Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers

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I agree with the many arguments listed in previous posts in support of the AP Latin Literature course and exam. If that exam must be nixed, an alternative that does not require one to focus on the Aeneid for an entire year should be created--preferably one that focuses more on the Latin language itself than either of the current tests does!

Justin Bailey
Latin and English Teacher
Pacifica Christian High School
Santa Monica, CA
Apologies...Justin's response was to my post, which, in my attempts to add my name, got deleted. It is reposted here.

I was as stunned as everyone else by this announcement and share many of the same feelings as others on this list. I have long considered the AP syllabi to be inferior in many ways to the International Baccalaureate syllabi, but have felt the only saving grace of the AP program for Latin was the literature syllabus. Apparently College Board has renounced its salvation. Both the Standard Level and Higher Level IB syllabi offer a pleasant range of authors for the students to engage. Students must focus on two general themes, such as love poetry, satire, epic, etc., in conjunction with an anchor author. My students, for example, typically engage selections from Ovid, Horace, Catullus, and Vergil. IB requires a mix of experiences of these works in Latin and in English, and the exams are quite fair. The translation paper allows the reasonable use of a dictionary, a resource that every single one of us uses, and the remainder of the exam is again a reasonable mixture of essay and short answer. (What I have roughly described is the Standard Level required activites. The Higher Level offers again a choice of additional activities.)

What you will have noticed is my repetitive use of the word "reasonable." Not only is this an accurate description of the IB approach, but it is strikingly so when compared with AP. The AP Vergil syllabus is a gargantuan beast that sucks the very life from students and teachers alike, a note that has been struck in other posts. The sheer volume expected to be covered in Latin allows little time for further exploration, even of Vergil himself, and one must hope that the students enjoy Vergil, for in the year they prepare for this exam, that is all they will get. Yes, one can divide the Aeneid into thematic units, but the overwhelming effect for the students is one of having to grapple with this one magnum opus. The Latin Literature syllabus, while offering only two authors, at least gives students the opportunity to explore two authors as opposed to one, and if they pair Horace or Ovid with Catullus, they get numerous different poems, something that aids in their memory of the authors not unlike learning the different songs of a favorite singer, which is, I think an apt comparison.

Now, I must admit, I love a good action/adventure story, and my students and I are able to have good time of engaging the Aeneid, especially when we explore a variety of translations and play with creating our own poetic renderings. But I must also admit (confess?) that the Aeneid is not my favorite story and Aeneas is not my favorite character in all literature. I am of the same lineage as the "plain sailor man" in the famous anecdote of Yeats, cited by Pound:

A plain sailor man took a notion to study Latin, and his teacher tried him with Virgil; after many lessons he asked him something about the hero. Said the sailor: 'What hero?' Said the teacher: 'What hero, why, Aeneas, the hero.' Said the sailor: 'Ach, a hero, him a hero? Bigob, I t'ought he was a priest.'

And I think the same can be said for many students. Yes, it is our task as educators to take students beyond their X-Box 360 horizons. No, we must not cater to popular trends and treat a Latin rendering of Harry Potter as if it were part of the Golden Age canon. But when the themes of Horace, Ovid, and Catullus find themselves playing out in the lives of the very teenagers who are reading them, why would we stop reading them? Students often ask their English and Latin teachers why they must read the works they do. I cannot answer for my English colleagues, but the response that I give my students is that they read these works because they are human. I tell them that I pray they have not known the death of a loved one yet, but when they do, they will need a way both to engage and to mark the moment. To deny their feelings at such a time is to deny their humanity, and one way to enter into an experience that touches us all is through the poignant piece of Catullus at his brother's grave. It can be a comfort to know that someone else in another time and place has experienced the same feelings and has given expression to those feelings in a way that we, in the moment of our own suffering, can not. To experience the trials and tribulations of love through the pens of Catullus, Horace, and Ovid, each with their own distinct perspectives and modes of expression, can be of much value to young people caught in their own passionate storms. To explore Roman attitudes toward city and country through Horace and Catullus, or to investigate Roman male/female relations through Catullus and Ovid, is a vital way to engage the past, a literary archaeology as it were, that bears fruit for the future as these same and similar issues arise today.

Finally, it must be said that a good many students, or rather, many good students, want a final year of Latin in high school, but do not necessarily want to prepare for the AP. While the Latin Literature syllabus does not provide a survey of literature, it does allow students a bit broader experience with Latin literature. If faced only with Vergil and his main character, whose opening words "'O terque quaterque beati, quis ante ora patrum Troiae sub moenibus altis contigit oppetere!" could well be translated, "O gods, I wish I were dead," these students may take their cue from Aeneas and bid their Latin class "requiescat in pace" as they race to beat the deadline at drop/add.

Steve Perkins
Latin and Theory of Knowledge Teacher
North Central High School
Indianapolis, IN
I am very disappointed by the College Board decision to cancel the Latin Literature course. I have primarily provide the Latin Literature offering because it offers my students a greater variety of experience with Roman authors. In addition, I am also upset because my district just spent a lot of money working on our AP audits, and then funded additional textbooks to fulfill the requirements set forth...that are now obsolete. Also, our school has just become an IB school and my students will no longer be able to participate in AP Latin and do the IB program. I think this is a poor choice at a time when Latin has been gaining ground in the public schools.
I think it's terrible for the AP to cancel Latin unilaterally, especially when studies and surveys have proven the value of learning Latin even for students who do not continue studying it after highschool. It is short-sighed of the AP board. Having studied Latin first at my public highschool, I know that Latin is not elitist or irrelevent as sometimes claimed. It seems to be a victim of a counter-productive emphasis on short-term results that can be measured. How frustrating.
Of the many peculiar aspects of the College Board's decision, one outstanding feature is their rationale: AP Latin Lit., they argue, is "underenrolled." The absolute number of students taking the Latin Lit. exam is lower, obviously, than that of those taking U. S. History. But what are these numbers as a percentage of the overall number of students in Latin and in U. S. History courses? Given that every American high school student takes U. S. History, I'm willing to bet that the percentage of those taking A. P. History is actually lower than those taking AP Latin Lit. To argue that too few students take AP Latin is to argue that too few students take Latin at all, and this, it seems to me, is a self-fulfilling prophecy, particularly when so powerful an institution as the College Board is the oracle.
This is terrible news. The AP Latin program is vital to students of the Classics, and limiting it to one test or eliminating it is a big mistake. I teach Middle School Latin, there is talk of beginning Elementary School Latin introduction courses in my school and others in the area, but what is the point of initiating such great early learning when the end result is going to be an early termination of our students' Latin studies in High School? I am strongly against this decision.

~ Magistra Cannon
Latin Teacher
Austin, Texas
As both a Latin teacher and a former AP Scholar I am appalled by the behavior of the College Board. With so much competition from modern languages and administrative practices in schools that marginalize our content area, how injurious to be attacked by an institution that once championed our cause. The College Board's claims to "represent academic rigor" and "broaden intellectual horizons" can no longer be taken seriously in light of the cuts they are willing to make - the first cuts in AP programming in 17 years. While CB claims to be not-for-profit, clearly their interest in this case is driven by the bottom line.

My questions is this: Can we as teachers stop allowing profiteering testing agencies to drive our curricula?
Ronnie Ancna's reply covers my feelings about the change. It also completely changes the curriculum I have established at my school.

Matt Slagter
Abington Friends School
It took the College Board months to inform me of the state of my Vergil syllabus for the course audit. The Latin Lit. syllabus back in January was approved in a matter of days. (Yes, I had just begin to teach Latin Lit. on a rotating basis with Vergil, investing resources, time, and energy. But I have been re-energized reading Catullus and Horace and introducing these authors to students).

Was the quick acceptance of my Latin lit. syllabus coincidence, or was the course already considered on its way out, and given a rubber stamp of approval?

First teachers were asked to demonstrate their professional competence via the audits. Now their experience and considered opinions are not consulted. The college board acts in a monolithic fashion.

Angela Fritsen
Episcopal School of Dallas
The College Board’s decision to eliminate the AP Latin Literature option represents a disgraceful bow to mediocrity–a significant step away from excellence. For many years some enlightened schools have enriched their curricula by offering specialized courses like AP Latin to very small classes of motivated students. (The more popular academic programs obviously have subsidized these opportunities–and they should!) For the College Board to turn its back on AP Latin is tantamount to adding its seal of approval to declining standards in American secondary education. One might have expected better of an institution like the College Board–even in these sad times!

Richard Spear
Lawrence High School
Fairfield, Maine
Diane Arnson Svarlien
Visiting Associate Professor of Classical Languages Georgetown College
The College Board's decision to eliminate the AP Latin Literature exam will have a lasting, and I fear, terminally debilitating effect on our school's Latin curriculum.

Jamie Morris-Kliment
Head, Modern & Classical Languages
Concord Academy
Concord, Massachusetts




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