Communication, Cohesiveness, and Continuity: Fighting for the Survival of the Classics
Classics courses face pressures from an ever more diverse array of offerings; indeed world languages themselves face pressure even in states where languages are considered “core” for K-12 education. For example, in some areas of Oklahoma computer science can be taken for a foreign language; similar movements to allow coding to count for a world language have appeared in other states as well (e.g., Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico and Texas). If many valuable subjects must compete for grant money under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants (SSAE)—already meager grants struggling to be fully funded under current budget proposals—then the Classics must make an even stronger case for their usefulness in the curriculum. This is no time to eschew our strengths in pursuit of trendy educational fads. It is important, however, to let the world know how our courses help students with overall literacy, global awareness, and 21st Century Skills.
Finding, training, and retaining teachers become even more important in this environment, because programs that cannot be staffed provide an easy decision for administrators trying to stretch their budgets in too many directions. Many states are currently struggling to find willing teachers and to provide those people adequate opportunities to be trained and certified (Ancona and Durkin, 2015; America’s Languages, 2017). As a result, programs like National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week and the Tirones project of the National Committee for Latin and Greek need more attention, not less, as time passes.
Moreover, communication within the Classics community continues to be an issue hindering these efforts. Getting people to travel to conferences, even within a state—let alone as far as a regional conference—is increasingly difficult as travel stipends continue to be restricted or to disappear completely. Although in this age of digital communication it would seem that communication would be easy and frequent, without face-to-face encounters people seem to be walled in by their own struggles and do not reach out for community support as they might. How do states improve communication within their borders and national organizations such as the SCS effectively aid regional, state, and local classics organizations to reach educators and students at all levels? How we improve communication at a time of high stress and overwhelming input from social media? Communication has both critical and long term implications: if we do not have the communication channels open enough to handle crises such as reduction of faculty and the closure of programs, how can we hope to use them to grow and thrive as a profession?
As with all advocacy, while leadership make strides with top-down programs, the real work must take place from the bottom up. Every college and university which reaches out to local programs, every state with a high school workshop for future language teachers, and every instructor who takes the time to talk to students about majors and careers in the Classics helps to alleviate the problem. How can we instigate and maintain such efforts in our home institutions and states? This paper is designed to elicit audience discussion of issues and solutions to these problems.
Classical Advocacy: The National Committee for Latin and Greek