Beware the Ides of February

One of my colleagues, a Lutheran pastor and theologian who lives in Siberia and who grew up studying in the Soviet classroom explained to me that in Soviet times, every school subject was twisted to reinforce Marxist ideology.  Even when little kids were learning math, the illustrations weren’t about children giving away apples, but rather forced narratives about capital and labor.  Even basic arithmetic illustrations reflected Communist ideology.

We are already there in our schools.  Not even the classical education world is exempt from the new curricular “wokeness.”

I’ve been on an email list for Latin teachers for many years.  A few days ago, there was a query about how to incorporate Black History Month into Latin class.  The original poster tossed out some ideas:

  1. “Notables from Roman Africa” (as he was trying to be less “eurocentric”).  Of course, Roman Africa was not sub-Saharan Africa, and folks from Carthage and Egypt weren’t exactly black.
  2. “Notable black Americans” who studied Latin.
  3. “Analyzing the rhetorical elements of MLK speeches.”  At this point, the original poster was all out of ideas, and was looking for some help.

    I’m sure the Romans must have had a Latin equivalent to our idiom of “pounding a square peg into a round hole.”

    There were a few obligatory, fawning, conformist, and cheerleading responses.  One person complained that a published list of black Latin scholars did not seem to include enough women.

    Sadly, teachers – especially young teachers – cannot see how they (and their students) are being used as ideological cannon fodder, with the curriculum being hijacked and manipulated by people who, as often as not, consider the Latin language and Western History (including Roman Imperial history) to be “white supremacist” on its face.  Perhaps motivated by the fear of being considered racist or elitist, they look for ways to pander and to appease by introducing race anachronism into classical studies.

    I have a novel idea: how about teaching Latin in Latin class, and focusing on the history and culture of the people who actually spoke Latin in their day to day lives, and who wrote the great classical literature of the language?  How about reading notable Latin authors without worrying about their melanin?  How about spending the time needed to master the vocabulary and the grammatical system of the language, and to be able to read classical literature in its original languages without a dictionary?  How about teaching the history of the Roman Republic and Empire: the good, the bad, and the ugly, without regard to political correctness or 21st century intersectional critical theory?

    I guess studying the language for the sake of the language and not as a foil for neo-Marxist ideology is as dead as Julius Caesar on the Ides of March.  At least they have a few months to decide how to incorporate LGBT issues into the Latin classroom.  Hopefully, they will avoid a hands-on approach to that one.


4:43 pm on February 15, 2021