When I learned that I would be teaching my department’s graduate Greek survey in Fall 2021, I promptly burst into tears. The assignment was not what I was expecting; more painfully, it brought up all the barely suppressed memories of my own survey experience.
There is nothing ideologically neutral about grades, and there is nothing ideologically neutral about the idea that we can neatly and tidily do away with grades. We can't simply take away grades without re-examining all of our pedagogical approaches, and this work looks different for each teacher, in each context, and with each group of students.
— Jesse Stommel, “Grades are Dehumanizing”
Classical Greeks often articulated a worldview that divided the world between Greeks and all other ethnic groups. This fundamental distinction served to justify war and slavery. The tragedian Aeschylus portrays non-Greeks as slavish and decadent in his Persians. Aristotle thought enslaving non-Greeks was a just cause for waging war (Politics 7.15.21). The Greeks called non-Greeks barbaroi, or “barbarians,” because of the unintelligible sounds of their foreign languages (they said bar bar). The historian Herodotus has long been a central figure in scholarly discourse about the creation and articulation of the boundary between Greeks and others.
Content warning: disability slurs & ableist language
As our culture changes, so, too, does the language that we use. This post is an invitation to discuss what is, at present, a culturally appropriate approach to language for writing or teaching about disability in the ancient world. We must always reflect on the importance of language and strive to learn the best practices for acknowledging the lives of the subjects of our research. At the same time, we must show due respect to our disabled colleagues and students. Our choice of language is important because, statistically speaking, you already have disabled colleagues and students. This is not an issue for other people or another time, but for all of us, disabled and nondisabled, right now.