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A Report from the CANE Annual Meeting of 2018

The panel discussing the future of Classics in the session, “Twenty-First Century Classical Education: Quo Vadimus?” From left to right are: Jamie Chisum, Jeri DeBrohun, Jacqui Carlon, Sherry Lewis-daPonte, and Ted Zarrow


What follows is a report I sent to my administrators after attending the CANE Annual Meeting at the University of Rhode Island this past week. I summarize some of the overall themes I encountered in the sessions I attended. If you would like to look at my more detailed (but messy and ad hoc) notes, you can see here. Also visit our Google Drive folder for resources that presenters included, and search for the hashtag #cane2018 on Twitter for thoughts from participants as they live-tweeted the sessions they attended.


I attended the CANE (Classical Association of New England) Annual Meeting on Friday and Saturday, March 16 and 17, 2018 at the University of Rhode Island. Over the course of the two days, I went to nine workshops and presentations. As the webmaster of the organization, I also went to an executive board meeting on Thursday evening.
The majority of the workshops I saw centered on one of two strands. The first was the effectiveness, use, and application of Comprehensible Input (CI) strategies (also known as Active Latin). I have been a proponent for this approach for many years, but it has been more of a theoretical appreciation than a practical reality. This year, I was especially heartened by the plethora of common sense and detail oriented presentations that have given me many ideas for how to run my classroom, create good learning opportunities and instructional strategies, and develop good learning goals. Specific instructional strategies include: creating tiered readings, which scaffold the difficulty of texts so that introductory students can read authentic Latin at an appropriate level; thinking strategically about pre-reading, reading, and post-reading activities; questioning techniques that assess students’ comprehension of texts in the target language; Can-Do statements and how they play a role in developing curriculum and assessing students’ ability along a proficiency continuum; and using puzzles (both ancient and modern) as activators of student interest. Some of the aforementioned strategies or techniques will be immediately actionable, while others will take more time to develop and explore.
The second major theme of the conference (at least insofar as I went to these particular workshops as opposed to others) centered on the relevancy and perceptions of Latin (and other languages) both extrinsically and intrinsically. There was an important plenary session with a panel of Latin educators at the high school and college levels, as well as administrators (principals and vice principals). Some takeaways from the panel and the ensuing discussion were that language and humanities in general are seeing a decrease in interest with the nascence of STEM fields. There is a perception that education is “transactional, not transformational” (I.e. students do X to achieve Y, but don’t learn for the sake of learning). There must also be a better effort to break down misconceptions that Latin is an “elite” field with closed admission. For the field to survive it must be an open tent and accommodating. Classicists ought to be doing a better job at showing the continuing relevance of languages and humanities to the general public, with more public outreach. Some good suggestions are offered below.
Additionally, Latin teachers (and, really, all teachers) ought to be more cognizant of social justice and equality issues with students in our classrooms. Some presenters shared their experiences with using Greek texts to connect with inmates and discuss violence, crime, and punishment. Another talked about using Catullan poetry to connect with students in an inner city Chicago neighborhood. Others showed how teaching material is problematic in how it depicts slavery in the ancient world. The “Happy Slave Narrative” often desensitizes students and teachers alike to the true atrocities of slavery. Another presenter discussed how she tries to include transgender and gender non-conforming students in her classes by respecting their pronouns and creating opportunities to avoid using gendered words (a difficult thing to do in many Romance languages). Overall, these discussions helped me to think about how I frame my classes and explain the past clearly and fairly while creating an accommodating and respectful space for current learners.
More information and specifics can be found in my notes below. As always, I am thankful for the opportunity to go to this conference every year, as I usually find it very enlightening, energizing, and thought provoking on several fronts. The tentative date for next year is March 8 and 9 at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.


To All To Whom This Letter Has Come, Greetings!

I was asked recently by a friend from my college days whether I would like to rewrite the diploma of the college where she teaches. They have no Classics department there, sad to say; my friend teaches English. I didn’t think to ask why she was in a position to recommend Latinists to do the job, but I assume she was on a committee charged with redrafting the diploma’s language. Beyond that, she did say that she gets to sign the diplomas as “Scriba”, which makes her… what? The Faculty Clerk? Secretary? I’m not sure.
Anyway, she sent me copies of the college’s old Latin diploma and the new diploma in English. I thought I had undertaken a simple task. But I hadn’t realized quite what a mare’s nest (in the secondary, more modern meaning of that idiom) I had gotten myself into.
I think that a Latin diploma is really the only piece of Latin prose with a practical function that a significant number of people come across in the US. Obtaining a degree in higher education is a highly significant milestone in the lives of people who obtain them; the diplomas themselves are often nicely framed and proudly displayed by people in many professions. One certainly can find evidence of complaints about the inconveniences of a degree whose text is in Latin; but I think it’s fair to say that most people feel that the Latin text embodies a sense of tradition, of the continuity we share with our predecessors whose feet have trod the same course.
If only the words on the parchment were worthy of the occasion. Any Latinist who has read an American diploma knows what I mean. Let’s look at Washington and Jefferson College’s diploma, an example chosen at random, which is mainstream in most respects:
Omnibus ad quos hae litterae pervenerint
salutem in Domino sempiternam! Notum sit quod nos
praeses et curatores Collegii
WASHINGTONIENSIS ET JEFFERSONIENSIS
auctoritate nobis commissa admisimus
[Nomen egredientis]
ad gradum
Baccalaurei in artibus
eique dedimus omnia iura dignitates et privilegia ad
hunc gradum spectantia. Cuius rei hoc diploma cum
sigillo nostro academico testimonio sit.
Datum ex aedibus academicis Washingtoniae
ante diem XIII Kalendas Junias anno domini MMVI
First on my own list are two incongruities: (1) a plainly Christian salutation (salutem in Domino sempiternam) and dating phrases for a college whose Christian affiliation is only historical and not evidenced, to the best of my knowledge, in other documents; and (2) the use of the ancient Roman system of calendar dates and Roman numerals (both of which lend themselves to errors) to communicate one of the truly important pieces of information in the document. Then there are the various oddities of Latin usage: the phrase iura, dignitates, et privilegia, very common in diplomas, to describe what is granted to the graduate is the most glaring example. Privilegia in Classical Latin does not mean “privileges” and dignitates is rare enough in the plural for a start. And even the college name is suspect: adjectives in -iensis refer to places, not people (and I am reliably informed that we are talking about the presidents in W & J’s case, despite its location in Washington, PA).
Someone might take issue with my tirade and point out that diplomas just aren’t examples of Classical Latin; their roots lie elsewhere. While that is true in the sense that the oldest universities in Europe have issued diplomas to their graduates for more than seven centuries, American universities were all founded by men (and later women) who had benefit of the Renaissance’s efforts to return Latin usage to its classical roots. And at least one old European university (Charles University in Prague, founded 1348) has a current diploma that puts our institutions in the shade through its clarity and dignity of style:
Summis auspiciis Rei Publicae Bohemicae Universitas Carolina Pragensis nos, rector universitatis et decanus facultatis ______, tenorem omnium quae sequuntur ratum praestamus lecturis ______, natus/nata die _____, in civitate ______, ordine studiorum baccalarii proprio qui _________ nuncupatur in doctrina _______, diligenter servato studia academica (summa cum laude) peregit quam ob rem iuxta legem n. 111/1998 leg. col. nomen academicum baccalarii ei tributum est quod in „bc.“ contractum cognomini eius rite anteponatur in cuius rei testimonium hoc diploma fieri iussimus (cetera scientiarum atque artium instituta quae disciplinam supra dictam colunt in huius diplomatis supplemento leguntur). Rector Promotor rite constitutus Decanus
I can only wish that my own diploma were so well worded. And it’s interesting to note that the learned folks at Charles U. avoid the whole issue of what a degree provides to a recipient.
We can however be thankful for small mercies. In online research for this post, I came across a transcription of Erasmus of Rotterdam’s diploma in theology, awarded in 1506, from the University of Turin–which was, in fact, a degree mill at this time. A segment follows with the original’s spelling:
Cum itaque venerandus vir Sacre Theologie Magister Dominus Frater Jacobinus de Prato ordinis minorum vocatus, tamquam vester promotor, vos Dominum Erasmum veluti sufficientem et in dicta Sacre Theologie Facultate Bachalarium benemeritum hodie coram nobis et venerando Domino Fratre Bernardino de Pirro Sacre Theologie Magistro Ordinis Praedicatorum dicte alme Unversitatis Decano et aliis dominis doctoribus de Collegio presentaverit, nosque cum prefatis dominis Decano ac aliis doctoribus dicti Collegii presentacionem huiusmodi de vobis actam solemniter duximus admittendam et quia in eadem Sacre Theologie Facultate idoneum vos reperimus ac sufficientem stantibus responsionibus per vos datis argumentis et questionibus vobis factis et prout a prefatis dominis Decano et ceteris patribus doctoribus et magistris de dicto Collegio in premissis deputatis in ipsa facultate repertus fuistis sufficiens et idoneus ad obtinendum licentiatus nec non doctoratus et magisterii gradum in predicta Sacre Theologie Facultate.
And here is a translation:
Thus when the venerable Master of Sacred Theology Friar Giacobino da Prato of the Order of (Friars) Minor, who is also your Promoter, presented you, Lord Erasmus, as a sufficient and worthy bachelor in the said Faculty of Sacred Theology in our presence and in the presence of Friar Bernardino del Pero, Master of Sacred Theology of the Order of Preachers, Dean of the said University, and in the presence of other Lord Doctors of the College, and when we solemnly judged admissible your presentation, we with the aforementioned Lords, Dean, and the other Doctors of the said College, caused you to be admitted. And because in the same Faculty of Sacred Theology we found you worthy and sufficient by the firm responses given by you to the arguments and questions made to you, such that by the aforementioned Lord Dean and the other Father Doctors and Masters of the said College, and by the authority given us in the same Faculty, you were found sufficient and fit for obtaining the Licentiate and even the Doctorate and the Grade of Master in the aforesaid Faculty of Theology.
I for one am grateful that diplomas have been markedly whittled down over time. It might take more time to read this diploma aloud than it took for Desiderius to earn it (apparently it took him 15 days, and his enemies mocked him for it).
My friend Chris Francese, the Asbury J. Clarke Professor of Classical Studies at Dickinson College, made a plea about nine years ago for all college diplomas to be written in English. Chris’s arguments are sound and practical (and in part based on some unhappy personal experiences). But, if American institutions of higher learning continue to issue degrees written in Latin, in defiance of the practices of America’s oldest university and of Oxford and Cambridge, is it really too much to ask that the words that represent the conferral accurately describe the significance of the degree, both to those that confer it and to the degree’s recipient? That may take some discussion, but it strikes me as much more worthwhile than a mission statement.


Report of the CANE representative to NECTFL

Report of the CANE Representative to the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

by Dr. Madelyn G. Torchin, Tufts University, Program Supervisor, Classics
The 64th Annual Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (NECTFL) was held at the New York Hilton Midtown on February 8-10, 2018. Approximately 1400 educators from across the 13 states of the NECTFL region and Greater Washington participated in the 16 workshops and 284 sixty-minute sessions, centered on the theme, “Unleashing the POW-er of Proficiency.” For classicists, the conference theme became, indeed, the “POW-er of Collaboration.” Participants left intent on continuing dialogue both in meet-ups and social media; everyone was encouraged to offer sessions and workshops at conferences, especially NECTFL and ACTFL.
The collaborative thread underscoring the three days of meetings was introduced by the three-hour workshop, “Creating Confidence through Comprehensible Input for the Classics Classroom,” led by Maureen Lamb, Kingswood Oxford School, West Hartford, CT; John Bracey, Weston Middle School, Weston, MA; and Lindsay Sears-Tam, Greenwich Academy, Greenwich, CT. Presenters reviewed how to create comprehensible input for students, how to implement this instructional strategy, and what assessments and activities have worked well for them using comprehensible input.
In her session, “Fostering a Love of Latin in the AP Curriculum,” Elizabeth Solomon from St. John’s Preparatory School, Danvers, MA, provided a unique system for studying every line of the AP syllabus, from Caesar to Vergil and shared examples of her students’ projects.  Her “mark-up method” incorporates rich and deep analysis of the text as it simultaneously amplifies students’ enjoyment of the material. “Culture without Bounds,” presented by Martha Altieri, Virginia Blasi, and Donna Gerard, explored the interculturality aspects of the Cambridge Latin Course and offered insights and practical pedagogical suggestions.
Sherwin Little and Mary English, Executive Director of the American Classical League and Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ, respectively, examined the new framework of Standards for Classical Language Learning with a focus on its components and terminology, in particular Communications. Participants explored assessment strategies as part of the Standards-Based curriculum, including proficiency, performance, and achievement. A rich and full discussion ensued.
The final session for classicists showcased the Mead Project: Creating Classical Connections.  Maureen Lamb, a MEAD Fellow for 2017, created a hub website, for sharing resources for teaching, professional development opportunities, and connecting teachers of Latin and Greek for support. Attendees enthusiastically received this new resource and exchanged ideas about valuable resources and ways to use those currently available for Classics teachers and how to expand Maureen’s plan to cover all New England Classics programs and resources.  Ultimately, a mentoring program for early career Classics teachers will be put into place.
In sum, the collaborative spirit of the Classics at NECTFL inspired and energized participants. While NECTFL’S offerings in pedagogy and other languages made this a valuable contribution for CANE members, one of its greatest benefits was bringing together a diverse group of strong, critical thinkers and providing opportunities for the lively exchange of creative ideas and solutions for advancing our profession.