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Hi folks,

I am interested in eventually creating a curriculum that would make classical languages and cultures more accessible to at-risk youth in urban schools that currently do not have Latin programs. I think it's a shame that Classics has such an elitist stereotype and feel that it's of value to everyone and should be available to all students.

I'm just wondering if anyone knows of any programs like this, how they work, how they're funded, etc.

Gratias vobis ago, Kate

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Hi Kate, I'm not a Latin teacher (I teach mythology courses at Univ. of Oklahoma), but I definitely share your concern about the elitist image of Latin. My own personal interest is in creating curricular materials based on popular wisdom and folklore (Aesop's fables, proverbs, folktales, legends) which ANYBODY can relate to, even if they do not gravitate towards the ancient Roman world (I'm not especially interested in the ancient Roman world myself, for all that I am absolutely passionate about the Latin language).

I've had great success in using Aesop's fables to connect with my students, provoke discussion, and ask real questions about life and the lessons it teaches.

I keep churning out fables and proverbs online for anyone to use, and posting them at the various blogs and wikis that I maintain as a personal hobby - in this blog, I post the latest materials that I'm adding (in summer I will be busily at work on a more regular basis, YEAH for summer!!!) - Bestiaria Latina blog - list of websites here: BestLatin.net.
One possible approach would be to find any sort of program that isn't "usual" in an underpriviledged school, such as a chess program, or a strong math program and find what works. In this sense, the principles of teaching aren't much different. Creating enthusiasm, working from students' strengths, these are things which apply across the board, The chore is making these things work for the classics in particular.

One issue I should think would become important would be "buy-in" on the part of adminstration, parents and especially students. There will most likely be plenty of questions about the practicality of it all ("but what can you do with it?"). Once you convince all the parties concerned of the value of classical learning for a fully rounded person who can face all the challenges of life, the program itself would most likely be rather easy.

I am a big fan of Orberg's Lingua Latina series. Middle school kids relate to it and it is a good scaffolded text ( it was my 1st year text in college). Moreover it is reasonably cheap. My school started an exploratory latin on a whim, almost (mostly to keep me busy and out of trouble), and we have never been at a loss for kids; we have to turn them away. If you zip me an e-mail at parsonsw@westborough.k12.ma.us I will reply with my curriculum map for a half year class.

Hi, Kate! When my wife and I began our teaching careers, we started at Martin Luther King, Jr. Latin Grammar Middle School in Kansas City, MO. This was during the era when Missouri had to respond to a lawsuit that had claimed there was de facto segregation in KC. The state's response was to pump huge amounts of money into that district to create magnet schools to draw non-minority students back from the suburbs. MLK became a Latin Grammar magnet. Our population was something like 80% African-American, 20% White and Hispanic. We used teaming in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, and Latin was required at each level and infused into the rest of the curriculum. Our primary text was the Cambridge series, and we had two Latin teachers at each level and an additional two Latinists as resource teachers.

We were only there two years, and it might be worth it to track down some others who were involved. I think the principal, Juanita Hempstead, is still involved in education in KC, perhaps with an Edison school. Dr. Peter Dodington has returned to New York, but I saw an article with him in the New York Times not long ago. They could give some further insights on what worked, what didn't, and whether the program was ultimately deemed successful. I know KC stopped the magnet program sometime in the later 90's.

Certainly a challenge is the practical issue, raised by so many parents these days. If you can get parents to shift from the "how will this help my kid get a job" kind of question to see that there is more to education than mere skills training, you will be on the right track. Some ask what Classics has to do with non-white students. You could mention Richard T. Greener, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and William Sanders Scarborough, the first three African-Americans to join the APA . Scarborough wrote, "The men and women of those days thought more of scholarship and less of prejudice; the color of a man made no difference with them. It was his standing as a scholar and as a representative of American scholarship that counted."

As I recall, Malcolm X studied Latin, as did the famous former slave-turned-poet, Phyllis Wheatley.

Steve Perkins
North Central High School
Indianapolis, IN
I think the University of Chicago started a program for urban Latin programs called the Alexandria Project--that instead of focussing on Rome, it used Alexandria as a multi-cultural, multi-lingual entry point to the ancient Mediterranean World, with Greek and Latin as 2nd languages for all.
Oh yes, I remember reading about the Alexandria Project years ago. I just did a search for it and the latest information on it dates back to the late '90s...I think it might be defunct by now.

Everyone's had really great suggestions/ideas. Thanks!
I am currently a teacher in Virginia in an inner-city school system that does have a classics (Latin) program. I have a number of students who are in my classes because they do want to learn, but I also have many who got "dumped" in the class and make it difficult for anyone to learn, and calls home, referrals, and detentions (if they show up) have had little effect in improving their attendance or getting them to turn-in their assignments. I am working on changing the book in the next couple of years and hope that will help, but I think that there has to be more teamwork between the parents, admin., and teachers to get kids to treat Latin in the same way as they would treat an SOL, since many see my classes as something that can be blown-off.
I have been teaching Latin in a Title I school in North Carolina for the past seven years in a program that I built myself. Our students are over 65% African-American, and are among the poorest and lowest scoring in the state. It is definitely a challenge. My students are high schoolers, and must complete three semesters (we are on the dreaded block) of either Latin or French in order to graduate. I have faced many of the same challenges that Sara (poster above me) has in her Virginia school. There are always kids who will not do, parents who don't understand, and administrators who are unsupportive. By and large, however, I find myself feeling good about the fact that all of these kids even have a choice of Latin, and even if they only complete Latin I, they are at an advantage when it comes to standardized testing and college entry.

I use Wheelock's, which is an unpopular choice among high school teachers, but I find that it makes my students much more competitive on the NLE and in JCL competitions. I refuse to believe that any of my students cannot do the work, though some have to work harder than others, of course. In addition, I supplement Wheelock's with cultural information which keeps the kids interested. In Latin I, we do the baths, gladiators, and we build Roman houses. In Latin II, we do units on Roman weddings (we actually have a marriage ceremony where the kids marry one another) and a long unit on the Roman army and the Punic Wars, the end result of which is a project where the kids make military standards.

The truth is that I do not have many AP quality students, but I do have many students who go on to take my Greek Culture class and develop an appreciation for the classics. At the end of the day, I want my students to know what the classics are, and to know something about the influence of the Greeks and Romans, even if many of them will never be able to recognize an ablative absolute, despite three semesters of Latin classes.




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