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P.7.Lippman

 Many fundamental challenges await for Classics professors teaching introductory-level general-education large-lecture classes. Some are logistical; administrators keep cramming numbers into large classrooms with fewer TA's, and as technology enhances teaching, it also increases undergraduate distraction. Other challenges, however, are curricular. Classicists in such courses swiftly need to make antiquity relevant and alive (without sacrificing content) to an average undergraduate who may well have no interest in the material on the first day of class. I have devised two experimental courses to help meet these challenges. Both courses push the boundaries of a typical large-lecture experience, but, given circumstances, they are useful models for the future and can significantly aid in the recruitment of undergraduate majors.

In spring 2009, I taught a large-lecture (538 students) course on Sparta. Besides regular instruction on the material (tracing Sparta's history and legend from Homer forward), I set up the class structure to imitate the Spartan government and educational system. In other words, I created a modern <i>agoge</i> and the entire classroom turned into a sort of military camp. Students sat in established groups by alphabetical order and worked in sort of a <i>phalanx</i> style, where everyone depended on everyone else. A percentage of their grades were based on the performance of the group as a whole. Individual students who did not pull their weight for the group were &quot;exiled&quot; by their peers, but the students who worked were encouraged in numerous ways to help out their brethren. Students monitored each other's behavior and got credit for ensuring that other other groups were not doing forbidden classroom activities (Facebook, texting, etc). By mid-semester, the groups started to compete against each other in various academic ways for more points. The experiment, even if it, in essence, created a police state (we ended by reading <i>1984</i> and <i>Brave New World</i>) was (unfortunately?) an immense success.

In fall 2010, I taught another such large lecture course; this time on Athens. The timeline covered was similar (although the primary readings were quite different), but the course structure changed radically. Instead of a police state with strict rules, the course began with almost no rules at all. The syllabus merely listed the readings, due dates, and supplied the barest minimum of college-required policy regulations. From that point forward, the class was a pure democracy. Students voted on attendance policies, writing, tests, classroom rules, and every other type of evaluation and course structure. In the beginning, democracy seemed less successful than the military dictatorship. The self-motivated excelled, but because many students simply tried to find ways to avoid work, the masses started to fall through the cracks. The more interested students grew frustrated and created optional study groups and meetings. They then had to find rhetorical ways to sway the lazier students to vote in policies that, on the surface, seemed to them like more work. This ultimately gave a new element to the course, where students learned as much by the political experiment as they did by the course material. The class started to echo Athenian politics; complete with aristocrats and demagogues and they gave class &quot;celebrities&quot; nicknames based on their roles in the polis (such as Solon, Pericles, Alcibiades, Diodotus, Cleon). Events of the class often kept pace with events in history and the high point undoubtedly was the attempted oligarchic coup in late November, right around the time we were reading about a similar Athenian event in 411.

 In both cases, the courses are extremely engaging. As students adjust to the unusual structure they learn more than they would in a typical large lecture class. They also experience first-hand (in a controlled way) a military-run oligarchy and a pure democracy in a way that shows them just how relevant such structures can be to their own lives.

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