Thoughts on the New ACL Standards


Last weekend, it was my good fortune to be able to attend the ACTFL conference in Boston.  As someone who generally only attends the CANE conferences each year, it was quite breathtaking to see such teeming masses of foreign-language teachers.  And it was for me a helpful reminder — not that I ignore my colleagues in the other languages at my school, especially not when they bring assorted pastries into the workroom — that we Latinists are one subset of a diverse union of educators, with whom we share much in common in our experiences and from whom we can learn new ways to improve our own pedagogy.
Certainly, as more Latin teachers have been adopting these techniques from the modern languages, the time had come to update the ACL Standards for Classical Language Learning.  At a session of this year’s ACTFL conference, members of the team which recently revised these standards presented the new text, and suggested some activities through which we might adhere to them.  It was a desire to attend this session which had brought me to the conference.  When I first glanced at the proposed revisions, I will admit feeling some trepidation.  Although I have tried to incorporate some spoken Latin and some comprehensible-input strategies into my own teaching, my approach, in part adopted willingly, and in part adopted by yielding to necessity, is still fairly grammar-translation.  I was concerned that the revised standards would condemn me for not having adopted these newer methods more thoroughly.
After listening to the discussion at ACTFL, however, I see that my fears were unfounded.  I appreciate that the aurea mediocritas was pursued, and that it was emphasized that the standards are in no way meant to be prescriptive, and that they do accommodate all approaches to Latin pedagogy.  The standards, as it seems to me, were rewritten to provide more support to those who employ a great deal of oral Latin in the classroom, while not scorning more traditional methods.  The variegated means by which we lead our students to an understanding of Latin — whether through drills on the paradigms or chatting about a text in the language — are a strength of our discipline, as they allow us to select the most useful morsels here and there to suit the needs of our own students in our own programs.
If you have had a chance to explore the new standards, what are your thoughts?  Are they an improvement, or do they require more refinement?

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