Teaching Latin to Humans
Justin Slocum Bailey
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I think that Justin highlights here, in his usual deft and lucid manner, the most pressing reality facing the field currently — the entirely outdated nature of our instructional models. I know people are worried now about enrollment (see recent MLA data), competition for resources from STEM fields, etc. but the fundamental reality of modern academia is that resources follow student demand. A well-respected Classics program with full enrollment and students fighting to get in is unlikely to get cut anywhere. The problem is how we go about building those sorts of programs, and the reality on the ground is that the methods and arguments we’ve been cyclically deploying since shortly after the Civil War do not cut it any longer (if they ever did). Without significant (research-supported) reform in the way we go about presenting content to students, the field will simply continue to collapse. There’s a lot of work to do on that front, but I think the first thing that needs to happen for any real change to occur is for the field broadly to recognize that it has a problem — our pedagogy is outdated, antithetical to research and data, and downright boring/void of meaning for the average student. Articles like this one (thanks Justin!) and the one by Jacqueline Carlton in Teaching Classical Languages (Spring 2013: “The Implications of SLA Research for Latin Pedagogy”) are sorely needed and the field more broadly must take their implications quite seriously. We’ve doubled-down for far too long on things that (from a sheer data perspective) don’t work. How about we spend some time trying to figure out what does?