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Difficult Topics in the Classroom

SCS Committee Panel

Organized by the K-12 Education Committee

Organizers: Ariana Traill, Shelley Haley, Philip Walsh

Topic: Difficult Topics in the Classroom

Have you ever had the experience of being blindsided by a student question or comment on a sensitive topic? These moments are both urgent and challenging, as we struggle to respond through a multitude of lenses: as scholars, seeking to present the ancient world accurately and informatively; as teachers, responsible for creating a safe environment to explore difficult questions; as individuals with our own set of experiences, biases, and fears of making an inadvertently inoffensive remark. Institutions may offer specialized training in some of these areas, through workshops, online courses, web resources, or staff dedicated to helping faculty navigate difficult topics, promote social justice, and improve the school or campus climate. While helpful, these do not always prepare us for the specifics of teaching texts and artifacts from the very different cultures and values of the ancient world.

Recent conversations have begun to address issues such as race, rape and sexual assault, slavery that are deeply embedded in the study of Classics. So too has the academy begun to consider the role it has played in perpetuating these issues, as the vehicle through which the values and institutions of the ancient world are passed down as the often too-unconsidered bedrock of the Western tradition.

As teachers, we are on the frontline of these conversations, our daily experience a testament to the challenges of treating such topics in a sensitive and constructive manner. We are not, however, limited to learning from our failures: there is a wealth of collective knowledge within our field. This panel invites reflections on best practices in responding to challenging moments and anticipating when these issues might arise. Papers may draw on formal research and training, as well on personal experience--the goal is to share knowledge and stimulate discussion.

Proposals may be submitted to traill@illinois.edu. Deadline: April 7, 2020. Abstracts will be reviewed anonymously by the other two organizers. We hope to attract contributions from classicists across a range of institutions: K-12 teachers, graduate instructors, and faculty from higher education.





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