IO SATURNALIA, AMICI!
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IO SATURNALIA, AMICI!
It’s probably a common experience. You pick your learning standards, craft your goals, your lesson, develop the perfect hook, a timely handout, an interactive learning activity with a wide variety of relevant visuals, and then it appears out of nowhere. His tunic is far more revealing than you recall. Why would you use that picture?!? A great gasp, a sea of twelve-year-olds aghast, their childhoods forever marred.
Yes, the ancient world supplies us with a wealth of incredible artistic creations, and, certainly, a great many of them are inappropriate for children. So, the question is: how do we, as teachers of classical content and ideas, dance around the fact that so many works from the classical world are inappropriate for children according to modern standards?
Before addressing the question directly, I will point out that this problem is not confined to teachers of the Classics. The world is a complicated place, and modern educators aren’t in the business of terrifying children by introducing them to mature concepts too soon; to curate reality, teachers and texts routinely make choices about when, how, and if they should introduce students to difficult or developmentally inappropriate topics.
Regardless, in the quest to utilize authentic classical imagery, whether examining black figure pottery, numismatics, or the frescos of Pompeii, Latin teachers come across content that is potentially taboo for their classrooms with alarming frequency. And every once in a while, they’re going to forget the fig leaf. So what should they do? I will offer a quick answer that seems reasonable to me at the moment, although there are probably many other options. Rather than a frightening specter, with the potential to scar young minds, a poorly chosen image could offer the opportunity to help students examine their own beliefs and assumptions about what makes something fashionable vs. embarrassing. Therefore, the next time you come across a scantily clad Heracles with a group of seventh graders, try to have that conversation. Ask them to grapple with their own assumptions. Maybe they will surprise you with their ability to see beyond themselves and think outside of their cultural boundaries. Maybe they will collapse in giggles. You won’t know unless you try. nihil ex nihilō fit.
For teachers, college instructors, graduate and undergraduate students we have, in no particular order:
•The various programs of the Accademia Vivarium Novum;
•the SALVI Rusticationes at the Claymount Mansion in Charles Town, WV;
•the Septimanae Latinae Europaeae (two locations);
•the Conventiculum Viterbiense in Italy;
•the Conventiculum Lexingtoniense, to be followed immediately by the
•Conventus ALF (Academia Latinitati Fovendae), which is being held in the US for the first time;
•the Conventiculum Dickinsoniense; and
•the Conventiculum Bostoniense.
Specifically for our students on the high school level, there are:
•SALVI’s Academia Aestiva Latina at the Getty Villa in Malibu, CA; and
•Paideia’s high school programs in Italy and Greece.