Rearguard action at Radford University

Rearguard action at Radford University

Latin program at risk

by Scott Gibson
September 29, 2006

A fundamental block of Liberal Arts and Education fades away at Radford University, while those strong enough to defend it say or do nothing. A major halved into a minor, finally devoured into oblivion: Latin is almost gone from RU.

For generations, to be educated meant to have linguistics knowledge; some basic understanding of other languages was expected. For Western culture, arguably none of these languages had a greater influence than Latin. French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian directly derive from it, and English drowns in the overflow of its influence.

Now this language will no longer be offered at RU. This demands explanation.

According to the Radford University Fact Book for 2005-2006, only 10 individuals graduated with a degree in Foreign Language and Literature for the 2004-2005 academic year.

The blows keep coming, for while a decline in people majoring in a department certainly leads to downsizing, the added punch is that not many students study a second language here at all.

Low enrollment hurts the most, but RU itself does not help. For one, the only separation between a B.S. degree and a B.A. is that a B.A. requires 12 credits in a foreign language, while a B.S. requires only six to eight credits. Some of these credits are spent in fields irrelevant to Math or Science completely (History majors can take Art classes and earn a B.S.). So students can obtain a B.S. degree with fewer credits and have those credits in usually a variety of classes.

These three forces have combined so soon that Latin will be erased from RU. So, what can be done to help?

Students should realize the benefits from studying the language. English and several other languages offered at RU derive from Latin; however, to study it means more than simply learning vocabulary and grammar. Ancient Rome’s culture has a rich variety of material in architecture, engineering and politics; all of these are given topics in any Latin class. The literature of the Ancient World alone makes Latin worth studying and preserving.

Faculty, get involved. Advise students to pursue Latin; share your own benefits from taking Latin (which many of you have done) with them. Convince those Liberal Arts majors especially that a B.A. could be better for most of them than a B.S.

Freshmen and sophomores, go to the Foreign Language and Literature Department and show a desire to take Latin.

Radford administrators, think about changing the B.S. to equaling the number of credits of a B.A.

Teachers, encourage students to take Latin. Students, demand the classes. RU, help save the program. With enough interest, maybe Latin can be saved, keeping this block of education intact.

Pre-schoolers learn Latin

Prospect Latin School immerses preschoolers in language, music, more
Private academy has 72 students on rolls

By Chris Otts
The Courier-Journal

In one room at the Prospect Latin School, Nadia Islam is using animal puppets to teach 3-year-olds such Latin words as “canis,” which means dog.

In another room, 3-year-olds are sitting at piano keyboards as Sarah Martin teaches them to press the keys every quarter-note.

Elsewhere, 4-year-olds mix baking soda, clay, vinegar and water to make a bubbling “volcano” in a bottle.

The preschool on U.S. 42, which opened in March and is in its first full year, is unique for teaching Latin and also for its piano program, said Diane Deitel, head of school.

Other schools in Jefferson County teach Latin, such as the Highlands Latin School, but Prospect is the only preschool to do so, Deitel said.

The private, Christian school had only 13 students in the spring but now has 72 2- to 4-year-olds, Deitel said. The school hopes to have about 120 students in the next year or two, she said.

The school was about five years in the making, said Theresa Byrne, its founder and the former owner of the Plainview School.

Latin and music are only part of the school's curriculum: Students also learn Spanish, science and social studies.

The school's name reflects a well-rounded, “classical” education, Deitel said.

But the teaching philosophy is hardly traditional. Teachers let the children play, and they use the children's interests to introduce new concepts.

The “volcano” experiment, for example, came about after one student mentioned volcanoes, teacher Hannah Schardein said. By measuring how much baking soda or water to mix together, the students are improving their math skills while doing something that keeps their interest, she said.

The teachers document their activities with digital cameras and make photo displays around the classroom explaining what's been going on; and photos are included in weekly newsletters for parents

The school doesn't subject the preschoolers to the rigors of learning how sentences are formed in Latin but simply the vocabulary.

More than half the words in the Romance languages, including English and Spanish, are derived from Latin. Though it might seem odd to teach a dead language to preschoolers, they are well-suited to learn Latin because of their capacity for absorbing information, Deitel said.

“We're hoping that years from now, when they're studying for their SATs, they'll remember some of these words,” she said.

Sarah Rueff said her son Jackson, 3, will often refer to things in their kitchen by their Spanish words, and that he knows Latin words that she didn't, such as the words for “star,” “sun” and “moon.”

Martin, the music teacher, said she's teaching the children the difference between quarter-notes and rests and between the black and white keys on the piano. Soon they'll learn which keys correspond to which notes, with the goal of playing a simple song by the end of the year, she said.

The school's Latin and piano programs hold promise, said Barbara Burns, a developmental psychologist at the University of Louisville.

Burns studied the two programs, which Byrne developed, when they were temporarily implemented at Plainview. Verbal and math test scores improved after students had a year in each program, but the study was limited and not definitive, Burns said.

Theatrical experience versus GCSE help

I've just got back from that performance of Oedipus the King by the Actors of Dionysus. On the way to Taunton, and on the way back, I listened to the start and end of the Welsh National Opera production of The Return of Ulysses by Monteverdi.

It struck me that there was something in common between what Monteverdi did to Homer and what the Actors of Dionysus are doing to Sophocles. They are both fashioning a new theatrical experience, for their own day, based on a Greek author.

That's absolutely fine. Our theatrical experience in Taunton was a real and pretty powerful one. The audience, consisting mainly of teenagers, stayed utterly silent throughout. Not a crisp bag rustled. I like to think that this was not only because they were well brought up young people but also because they were gripped, as I was, by the drama.

But as well as the part of me that was gripped, there was another little bit of my brain that was ticking off all the most important moments in Sophocles as they came in this re-interpretation. Everything in Sophocles that is vital to the working out of the plot is there in the AoD production's version by David Stuttard. All the clues are in place. A GCSE candidate who was asked to explain why Jocasta reaches the truth before Oedipus does would be able to give the correct answer after paying close attention to the AoD version.

So much else, however, is different. As Jocasta in Sophocles makes her final exit she says:

Iou, iou, dustenos; touto gar s'echo
mono proseipein, allo d'oupoth' husteron.

This evening she said something like:

Goodnight. I have always loved you and I always will.
Goodnight. Remember that I love you. Goodnight.

Which is not quite the same. It is importing a modern western sensibility to the ancient Greek play. The words would not be out of place in a Hollywood film.

An extremely effective addition to Sophocles was taking up the theme of drought from the opening scene and bringing it back at the close, as the blind Oedipus, blood streaming down his cheeks, senses and welcomes the rain that ends the drought. It is as if his self-blinding was a sacrifice that ended the curse on Thebes, and it reminded me of the closing of the film Ben Hur, where Christ's blood streaming from the cross becomes a stream that flows out with healing power. A fine thought – but is it in Sophocles? I seem to remember the final scene concentrating entirely on the misery of Oedipus himself, as he works out the shocking family relationships that his incest has caused, as he embraces his daughters, as he sees himself as such a pollution that he must not come out into the sunlight.

So what am I saying? That AoD should not treat ancient Greek plays in this manner? Not at all. I am merely warning teachers to prepare their students well before taking them to see this production. Tell them that they are going to see a fine modern play that shows what Sophocles might have written if he had lived in the 21st century. They are going to see four excellent actors, (Ben Ingles as Oedipus, Raewyn Lippert as Jocasta and others, Terence Frisch as Creon and others, and Simon Spencer-Hyde as Teiresias and others) who show clearly how it would have been possible for three actors to take all the parts in the original, and who do it without the benefit of masks. (I've left my programme in the car and don't wish to go out through the current heavy rain to get it, or I would name names. – update: the rain has stopped; the names are as above!) They are going to see a very carefully considered production, which makes imaginative and complicatedly symbolic use of the simplest of sets. Let them ponder on the symbolism of what Oedipus is wearing at different stages of the play.

But beware! A powerful emotional experience leaves a lasting impression. And many of the impressions will not be quite what Sophocles wrote.

Actors of Dionysus tour with Oedipus

Having just heard from Atriades that Oedipus, with the Actors of Dionysus, is on in Taunton this evening, I take the opportunity of posting their current tour dates:

30       7.30  TAUNTON                  Tacchi Morris Arts Centre              (01823) 414141
2         7.30  NOTTINGHAM            Nottingham High School              (0115) 9786056
3         8.00  HALIFAX                    Square Chapel Arts Centre          (01422) 349422
4         8.00  KENDAL                     Brewey Arts Centre                      (01539) 725133
5         8.00  MANCHESTER           Manchester Grammar School       (0161) 2247201
6         2.00  CROSBY                    Merchant Taylors Girls School      (0151) 9311819
9-10    7.30  CAMBRIDGE              Mumford Theatre                          (01908) 324422
11       7.30  BUXTON                     Buxton Opera House                   (0845) 1272190
12       7.30  DERBY                       Guildhall Theatre                          (01332) 255800
13       7.30  NORWICH                   Norwich Playhouse                       (01603) 598598
16       7.30  PORTSMOUTH           New Theatre Royal                       (023) 92649000
17       7.30  HOOK                         Lord Wandsworth College            (01256) 860252
18       8.00  CROWTHORNE           Wellington College                       (01344) 444000
19       7.30  MARGATE                  Theatre Royal                              (01227) 378188
21       8.15  HOWDEN                    The Shire Hall                              (01430) 432510
30      7.30   LOUGHBOROUGH      Loughborough Arts Centre          (01509) 222899
31      7.30   KINGS LYNN               King Edward VII School              (0115) 773606
2         2.45  MILTON KEYNES        Stantonbury Campus Theatre      (01908) 324422
4         8.00  TEWEKESBURY          Roses Theatre                             (01684) 295074
7         7.30  CROYDON                   Whitgift School                            (0208) 6889222
8-9      7.30  WELLINGBOROUGH   The Castle                                   (01933) 270007
10       7.30  WOLVERHAMPTON    Arena Theatre                              (01902) 321321
13       7.30  LEEDS                        Gateways School                         (0113) 2181209
14-15  7.30  HARROW                     Harrow Arts Centre                      (020) 84280124
16       8.00  FAREHAM                    Ashcroft Arts Centre                    (01329) 310600
17       8.00  DORCHESTER             Dorchester Arts Centre                (01305) 266926
18       7.30  BRISTOL                      Redgrave Theatre                       (0117) 3157621
20       7.30  WORCESTER               Kings School                               (01905) 721794
21       7.30  HARLOW                      The Playhouse                            (01279) 431945
22       7.30  GUILDFORD                 Royal Grammar School                (01483) 880600
24       2.00  ST ALBANS                  The Maltings                               (01727) 844222
27       7.30  LANCING                      Lancing College                          (01273) 465770
28       7.45  CRANBROOK               Queens Hall                                (01580) 711814
29       1.30  TROWBRIDGE              The Arc                                       (01225) 756376
30       8.00  SWINDON                     Swindon Arts Centre                   (01793) 614837
1         8.00   SALISBURY                  Salisbury Arts Centre                  (01722) 321744

A useful online source of teaching materials

May I commend Bestiaria Latins News as an excellent source of all sorts of classroom ideas and goodies? One that caught my eye this morning was a list of 100 Latin phrases used in English. You can get the whole page here, but you'll have to scroll down a long, long way to get to this particular item. Still, you'll find a lot more useful and interesting things on the way.

Word of wisdom in the EU Latin News

The latest EU Newsfrom Finland in Latin is here.

The Finnish Minister of Agriculture said this about the CAP, but the government might heed his words and apply them to education in this country:

Quae quamvis ita sint, certo stabilitatis gradu opus est, neque prudentis est politicam nimis saepe mutare.

New website for the Tullie House Museum in Carlisle

From the News and Star

I've looked at this website, and it looks good. Probably aimed at primary age children.

We’re digging the internet

Published on 26/09/2006

SOME of the most important people to have lived in Cumbria were the Romans, who occupied the land that became Cumbria from about 72/73AD to 500AD.

Hadrian’s Wall is the biggest and most famous Roman archaeological feature, but there are lots of other things that the Romans left behind in Cumbria – some of which can be seen at Tullie House.

From today you can find out all about the Romans in Carlisle (which they called Luguvalium) on a new Tullie House interactive website.

The website – – is an informative, fun and entertaining resource for pupils and teachers and includes fun activities and useful information that you can use on school projects. Your guides are Rufus the Archaeologist and Roman squirrel.

An interactive map details what the Romans were doing in relation to modern Carlisle. As well as a Roman-style game of snakes and ladders you can reconstruct a skull found at an excavation site at the north end of The Lanes shopping centre.

Richard Clark, a teacher at Stanwix Primary School (which is on the site of the Roman fort Uxelodunum) says that: “The Tullie House Roman website is full of useful information and facts of Roman life in Carlisle. Being able to show children where the Romans lived in comparison with today’s Carlisle is a great way of getting them to learn the history of our city.”

Julie Wooding, Tullie House learning and access officer says the Roman website has taken a lot of hard work and creative skills to get right

“The interactive tools and games ensure the website is fun while still retaining the valuable information needed to help teachers educate children on such an exciting and significant period within Carlisle history,” she says.

The new website is part of the Renaissance project, a national scheme to transform England’s regional museums.

Where did Classics go?

From Campus Times.

Where did Classics go?
Amy Weintraub
Issue date: 9/21/06 Section: Features

Hesiod, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Homer – do any of these names ring a bell? You've probably heard of them in passing, but have you ever really read them? Have you sat down with the Odyssey and tried to deconstruct Homer's epic poem of a man who embarked on a long and torturous journey to make his way home?

If you were a college student half a century ago, without a doubt you would have read all of the great Greek authors. Courses in Classics were a staple in virtually every college and pre-college student's academic career – it was even the most popular major. You simply wouldn't grow up to be an educated, well-rounded individual if you didn't at least study Latin. These days the classics major has become significantly less popular. What happened?

One theory about the disappearance of Classics can be summed up in a single word – Sputnik. In 1957, the Russians launched their space rocket Sputnik, which caused huge turmoil for the Americans. It prompted a large reconsideration of how people approached education. People thought that since the Russians had a satellite in orbit first, we needed to place a greater emphasis on teaching science and math so that we could catch up to them. So basically, because of Sputnik, teaching Classics was put on the back burner. America wanted to breed scientists and mathematicians so that we didn't lose to the Russians again. Therefore, there was a philosophical shift in education, and funds for teaching Classics began to dwindle.

Although it may not seem obvious, a Classics degree can provide a student with a broad understanding of politics, law, economics and history, subjects that can be applied to graduate school in any discipline. As the Princeton Review explains, “according to Association of American Medical Colleges, students who major or double-major in Classics have a better success rate getting into medical school than do students who concentrate solely in biology, microbiology and other branches of science.” Classics and math majors have the highest success rates of any majors in law school. Classics majors consistently have some of the highest scores on GREs of all undergraduates, beating out political science, economics and pre-law majors.

With all of these obvious advantages to majoring in Classics, all students at some point in their college careers should take a course in which they can discuss Aphrodite the goddess of love, read from Hesiod about how all of the Greek gods came to be, or learn Latin or Greek, languages mostly responsible for the study of semantics. Even if your dream in life is to become a doctor and find the cure for cancer, Classics may be more beneficial for you than you think.

A link, a link

Why should I keep it to myself? Wilf O'Neill just sent me this:

Try this one:


Books you might find useful

These are the first few books from OUP's latest list, which I thought looked useful.

Classical Mythology
Mark P. O. Morford and Robert J. Lenardon

New Edition

  • A comprehensive survey of classical mythology with lucid, insightful explanations of and commentary on the myths based on the best scholarly research
  • A wide array of clear, readable, and faithful translations of substantial excerpts from the major Greek and Latin sources

31 August 2006 | £23.99 | Paperback | 894 pages
For more details, visit:

Political Philosophy
Malcolm Schofield

  • Engages with all the key themes of Plato's political thought as live issues for today
  • Sets out and analyses Plato's arguments clearly and succinctly

31 2006 | £18.99 | Paperback | 394 pages
For more details, visit:

Other New Titles

The Roman Empire: A Very Short Introduction
Christopher Kelly

  • Descibes the astonishing logistical feats, the politics, and the oppression, which the Romans used to rule their vast empire
  • Part of the best-selling Very Short Introductions series – over one and a half million copies sold

24 August 2006 | £6.99 | Paperback | 168 pages
For more details, visit:

Edited by Michael Collier and Georgia Machemer

  • Does full justice to the lyricism of Euripides original work
  • Goes beyond the literal meaning in order to evoke the poetic intensity and rich metaphorical texture of the Greek language

17 August 2006 | £6.99 | Paperback | 128 pages
For more details, visit: