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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 am one of six students currently taking the AP Vergil course at Shawnee Mission East High School. I am the only one of those six trying to do the AP Ovid/ Catullus curriculum simultaneously, as an unofficial independent study. I am also the only one looking to pursue a major in Classics in college. I'm taking the curriculum for Ovid and Catullus because Latin is one of my four favourite things to do in life, and this is my last shot to take the exam if none of this protest works out.

Thank you for standing up to the College Board.

With respect,
Joseph Marx
The note below is from Sherwin Little, president of the American Classical League, posted on October 24, 2008:

An update on the AP Latin situation: There will be a faculty colloquium in Chicago Nov 1-2, where University and College faculty will be able to discuss the AP program in general and the future of AP is on the agenda. I will be in attendance. In addition, there is an AP teachers’ workshop in conjunction with CAMWS Southern Section in Asheville NC. At the end of the calendar year or early next year, College Board will do an electronic survey of authorized AP Latin teachers to get feedback about possible scenarios. It is critical that you reply and give detailed responses.

Based on the data collected from these sources, the Development Committee and the College Board will make some decisions about the future, which they hope to announce by summer 2009.

There are no quick easy answers to this situation. Please know that ACL, along with APA, is not just monitoring the situation but giving input directly to the College Board.

Vestra Causa Tota Nostra Est!!

Please contact my anytime you need.
Sherwin Little
Please keep the Latin Literature AP test. The curriculum gives the students the opportunity to study the classics on a higher level. They should be allowed to take the test and earn college credit for the hard work they put into the program. My students really enjoy Ovid and Catullus.
Suzanne Clizer
Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
Kansas City, MO
American education has been in decline for decades. The decision to scrap the Latin Exam is another sign that the trend has not stopped. U.S. students need to be challenged not given a diluted curriculum.

Matthew McMurray
History Deparrtment
New Jersey City University
For me it is very hard to write temperately about this. It is a palpable impoverishment of American education as a whole because the study of Latin, especially in high school, is important far beyond what the mere number of test-takers might seem to say. By truncating the AP Latin program you palpably damage all education because, although only 3,600 or so students annually take the Latin Lit. exam, they tend to be the best of *all* students in *all* subjects. They study Latin largely from hunger and a good intuition of what their brains need most.

For a sort of 'proof' of this by SAT and GRE statistics, and for the grippingly interesting arguments of great men and woman who prized Latin at its exact worth, see the quotes in our web site http://udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html .

It is true that the AP Latin program has always had drawbacks; often it seems so crude many of us have cursed it. Part of me would be glad if the whole of "AP" everything disappeared. But this exam does undeniably help to induce bright students to study Latin, who might otherwise neglect it, but who badly need it, and who emerge from it with far sharper English, sharper analytical skills, and a love (rather than fear) of hard problems of all kinds, in all subjects.

As I said, I can hardly write temperately about this. To end I will just quote Schopenhauer (for his reasons for saying this, see the entire passage quoted at the web address given above): "But this I know. If the threatened calamity should ever come, and the ancient languages cease to be taught, a new literature shall arise, of such barbarous, shallow and worthless stuff as never was seen before."

Karl Maurer, Department of Classics, The University of Dallas
While AP exams can certainly be beneficial to students (for example, I believe the extra time I spent rereading the relevant passages to prepare for the Latin AP exams was well spent), offering APs but not offering enough of them can lead to classes that waste time focusing only on the exam at the expense of learning new material. Here are some examples from my high school experience with AP classes:

- In Latin, the Cicero and Catullus AP exam was offered in the 3rd year and the Vergil was offered in the 4th. Latin was the most challenging and exciting class I was taking in both of those years (and was probably my favorite class the other two years too).

- I didn't take French, but the situation with French at my high school was similar: AP Language exam in 3rd yeah, AP Literature exam in 4th year, all in all a challenging and serious program.

- My high school's Spanish program was perhaps very slightly weaker than the French program, and only the AP Language exam was offered (in 4th year). By the end of 3rd year Spanish, we were most likely nearly prepared to take the AP and we were certainly prepared to start really reading a lot in Spanish, but instead much of the 4th year was spent simply reviewing grammar and vocabulary and practicing for the AP exam. I did fine on the AP exam, but it felt like a mostly wasted year of Spanish, which made me wish my school offered both exams as with French (and I wonder now what will happen at my high school when the AP French Literature exam is discontinued).

- AP Chemistry had a similar problem: the honors chemistry class in 2nd year covered the vast majority of the AP syllabus, and the AP class in 3rd or 4th year ended up spending a lot of the time simply reviewing material from the previous class in preparation for the AP exam. (Here, there simply isn't a harder AP exam offered in the subject to encourage a more difficult second class.)

- I strongly suspect that the discontinuation of the AP Computer Science AB exam (as opposed to the A exam which covers less material) will result in a less serious and slower paced class at my high school.

In short, while I can't really comment on how much these not-so-popular AP exams have been costing and who ought to pay it, I really do worry that discontinuing them might have a significant negative effect at the (relatively) few schools that were offering them (and perhaps the schools working to improve their programs in hopes of being able to offer them in the future).

(On an unrelated note: as a high school Latin student, I enjoyed the Pro Caelio the most of all the Cicero we read; if the whole exam weren't getting discontinued I'd be sorry to see that the syllabus has changed...)

Evan Bullock
Graduate student in Mathematics, Harvard University 2004-2009
Undergraduate in Mathematics and Classics, Rice University 2000-2004
Latin student at Newton North High School, 1996-2000
I think that teaching the classics is critical in maintaining our culture. In many ways, we have wandered so far from our roots that we risk not recognizing ourselves. Often, alas, to the detriment. I studied AP Latin in the mid-80s and would be the poorer if I had not.

South Portland High School, South Portland, ME, 1983
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, BS Chemical Engineering, 1987
University of Phoenix, MBA Technology Management, 2000
I was lucky enough to take the AP Latin Literature course just a few years ago. When my Latin and Greek teacher told me they were cancelling the test after this year, I was disgusted; although we had to prepare for the AP exam, that class was great fun and contributed hugely to my decision to major in Classics. I learned to analyse not only the symbols present in literature but also the language itself, a skill that helped me in other literature classes, and I even gained a new perspective on creating art (invaluable, as I also write music). Furthermore, Latin moved me to study Attic and Homeric Greek, tasks that have taught me the value of persistence and multiple grammar books. Without the AP Latin Lit course, I don't know if I would have discovered my academic passion.

I realise I'm simply adding to what everyone else has said, but I'd also like to point out that it is already difficult enough studying Classics in a small school (the average grade level has about sixty people). Latin is reasonably popular, but I've seen it declining in favour of Chinese. There are two of us studying second-year Greek semi-independently. In every English class so far, my knowledge of Latin and Greek literature has helped me immensely, and I believe those who do not study Classics must miss a great number of references and symbols when they read some of the literature we read.

My friends and I harbour some resentment towards the College Board, since they seem to be making a lot of money, sometimes at the expense of the students (for example, was it really necessary to make us take multiple SATII tests as well as APs?). In general, though, I love being able to take AP courses, and I would not have expected such an organisation to make such a short-sighted decision.

Next year I'm going to college to major in Classics, and my ultimate goal is to teach Greek at the university level, so I am trying very hard not to be cynical about the position of Classics in American culture. However, I have frequently encountered people who believe the Greek and Latin are for anachronistic, culturally illiterate snobs. The only way to prevent this unfair, ignorant attitude from prevailing is to expose as many people as possible to the subject. Omitting an AP course is not going to help.
I have only just found out about this terrible news, and, despite the announcement was made for this "protest" 1 full year ago, I would still like to register my name in support.

I remember well organizing a self-study group for the exam in my senior year of high school. I rounded up 3 others, and off I was to be a Latin instructor armed with nothing more than a love of the language, a Loeb Classics text, and a burning desire to "avenge" my 4 on the Latin Vergil AP! The class was entirely improvised, and we were hot-headed fools to think we could actually succeed.

My profession now might have little to do with the Classics. But from forcing myself to meticulously translate all those lines in a logical, intelligible fashion, I had been able to raise my English writing ability far from its humble and simple immigrant origins. From immersing myself into the history of the Greeks and the Romans, I would derive a deep love of the past, which would take me to northern Israel for an archaeological dig even while Hezbollah was raining rockets in the region. From the immortal sentiments of "ave atque vale" and "sunt lacrimae rerum", I would come to deeply appreciate that we humans are bound by the same wants and the same emotions, a lesson which I find particularly relevant in this age of endless division and disease and strife. Leading the self-studying group for the Latin Literature AP was also a test of intellectual prowess and character, and I would rank the 5 I got on it one of my greatest achievements. My life has been immeasureably enriched from these studies, and now generations of high school students would be deprived that which I myself enjoyed and benefited from. I wish, though I doubt it, that the exam once canceled could ever be brought back.

But on a more global perspective, I would dare say that the AP program is one of the few bright lights of the American high school education system. Taking these tests do prepare students for the vigors of undergraduate studies by giving them a taste of what it is to be graded at a national, adult standard. Indeed, from my experience at Cornell I would say without hestiation that those who took more APs almost invariably do better. When American students are increasingly found wanting in comparison to their foreign peers in depth of knowledge and breath of exposure, from the sciences to the arts and even to the English language itself, what good is it for the AP program to contract itself by jettisoning exams and cutting up topics from the high school curriculum?

Timothy Lau
J.D., Stanford University, 2009-
Sc.D., MIT, Materials Science and Engineering, 2005-2009
B.S., Cornell University, Materials Science and Engineering, 2002-2005
Latin "V" Literature AP, 2002
Latin IV Vergil AP, 2001
I think a policy decision as large as sacrificing the future our cultural (republican) heritage in favor of Chinese should not be left in the hands of a private institution motivated by profit, such as the College Board.
Are we safe for now? Did they decide not to cancel it?
This is terrible! The only AP Latin course offered through my distance learning program is Latin Literature, which I am taking this year. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there will be an exam for me to take in May...
I think they should discontinue the Vergil exam if they have to do one - it seems like AP Latin Literature is more inclusive than Vergil.




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