Tuesday, February 19, 2019


Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Steven Hunt, Mai Musié​ (ed.), Forward with Classics: Classical Languages in Schools and Communities. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. Pp. xiv, 276. ISBN 9781474297677. $40.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Laurie A. Wilson, Biola University (laurie.wilson@biola.edu)

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Arlene Holmes-Henderson and Mai Musié from the University of Oxford along with Steven Hunt from the University of Cambridge have compiled a collection of chapters providing a clear and comprehensive portrayal of the current state of classics in education. All three of the editors have extensive experience in classics teaching and outreach to schools and communities within the United Kingdom. While the UK remains the primary emphasis of the book, the editors have included a helpful glossary for those who are unfamiliar with the UK system of education, and the book also includes chapters from a number of international educators in classics. Teachers of classics from any location who are seeking to promote classical learning will not only find the country specific chapters helpful, but will also benefit from the methods and strategies presented throughout the volume.

This book results from the Classics in Communities project, initiated between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the Iris Project in response to English curricular reforms (1). Although classical studies traditionally have been more confined to independent schools, recent reforms have fostered their increase within state schools and to students from minority groups and diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. The authors demonstrate that classical studies continue to flourish within these different contexts and benefit a wide range of students.

The book consists of seventeen chapters divided into three parts. The first six chapters examine educational policies in the UK, Australia, Brazil, mainland Europe, and the United States and the effect on the teaching of classics in these countries' schools. Particularly in the UK, the government has been influential in attempting to widen all students' access to classical studies. An important theme arising in this section is that as interest in classical languages declines, the expansion of classical studies depends upon the growing popularity of Classical Civilisation and Ancient History. Nevertheless, communicative approaches rather than traditional grammar-translation methods can spark new enthusiasm for language courses, as evidenced in Europe and the US.

The second part of the book consists of recent case studies on the implementation of classical learning. Six of the eight chapters focus on British schools, one on schools and prisons in South Africa, and one on communities in Ireland, England, and Wales. Together, these case studies demonstrate the necessity and effectiveness of collaboration, reiterating that classical studies will flourish only through the dedicated partnership of educators at all levels of education in coordination with independent organizations. This section also emphasizes the crucial need for passionate and dedicated teachers in classics, but stresses that being well trained does not equate with specialist teachers. Many small schools cannot hire full-time classicists, and teachers in subjects like English, modern foreign languages, and history are often excited to teach classics and well prepared to succeed.

The final section of the book contains three chapters that consider classics in the future. Inevitably, technology will play a significant role in promoting classical studies not only for students, but also as a means of equipping primary and secondary teachers. Classicists at the Open University, for instance, have developed free online resources for students including courses within a Virtual Learning Environment. Such methods are well suited to technologically advanced students, who tend to value independent learning. Additionally, since the twenty-first century places a high value on employability and the acquisition of practical skills, this part of the book also addresses the core competencies that classical studies develop in students, such as critical thinking, literacy, team work, problem solving, self-management, and communication skills.

Frequently, as they become caught up in the practices of teaching, educators lose or forget the motivation for studying a subject, but a convincing rationale for classical studies is essential to its continuance. Even within European communities, which possess a Western cultural background and thus a long-standing acceptance of classics, John Bulwer notes that advocates face a growing need to justify its place within the curriculum (70). Chapter 7 by Barbara Bell and Zanna Wing-Davey, and Chapter 11 by Olivia Sanchez and Nicola Neto provide particularly relevant research on the benefits of classical learning. Noticeably, no single method or line of reasoning can be used to defend or teach classics; instead, they vary by student and situation. For example, although reading-comprehension approaches tend to awaken greater interest in classical learning, the traditional grammar approach to Latin has improved inner-city literacy in London schools and has appealed to students from minority backgrounds for whom English is a second or even third language (117-120). As a whole, the book presents a compelling case for classical studies within a multicultural and increasingly globalized world. Mary Beard's foreword and Chapter 14 by Aisha Khan-Evans support this viewpoint by showing that the classical world awakens students to cultural differences while it also offers them the opportunity to evaluate their own cultures and address sensitive issues within a safe and removed context.

Ultimately, this book will be an encouragement to all educators in classics. The authors speak to an international audience at the same time that they address local populations and differing curriculums and motivations. While acknowledging the challenges inherent in teaching classics, they reveal that communities and students continue to benefit from classical learning, and they present a realistic yet hopeful outlook for its future.

Authors and titles

1. Getting Classics into Schools? Classics and the Social Justice Agenda of the UK Coalition Government, 2010-2015 / Steven Hunt (9)
2. Widening Access to Classics in the UK: How the Impact, Public Engagement, Outreach and Knowledge Exchange Agenda Have Helped / Emma Searle, Lucy Jackson and Michael Scott (27)
3. Classics in Australia: On Surer Ground? / Emily Matters (47)
4. Reintroducing Classics in a Brazilian Public School: Project Minimus in São Paulo / Paula da Cunha Corrêa (55)
5. Changing Priorities in Classics Education in Mainland Europe / John Bulwer (67)
6. Latin Is Not Dead: The Rise of Communicative Approaches to the Teaching of Latin in the United States / Steven Hunt (89)
7. Delivering Latin in Primary Schools / Barbara Bell and Zanna Wing-Davey (111)
8. Latin in Norfolk: Joining Up the Dots / Jane Maguire (129)
9. Introducing Latin in a State-Maintained Secondary School in England: Lessons Learned / Rowlie Darby (137)
10. Creation and Impact of Regional Centres of Excellence for Classics: The Iris Classics Centre at Cheney and the East End Classics Centre / Lorna Robinson, Peter Olive and Xavier Murray-Pollock (149)
11. Developing a Classics Department from Scratch: Two Case Studies / Olivia Sanchez and Nicola Neto (161)
12. Academia Latina: Working in South African Schools and Prisons / Corrie Schumann and Lana Theron (171)
13. Taking Classics into Communities / Patrick Ryan, Francesca Richards, and Evelien Bracke (187)
14. The Appeal of Non-Linguistic Classical Studies among Sixth-Form Students / Aisha Khan-Evans (205)
15. Classics Online at the Open University: Teaching and Learning with Interactive Resources / James Robson and Emma-Jayne Graham (217)
16. Classics and Twenty-First-Century Skills / Arlene Holmes-Henderson and Kathryn Tempest (231)
17. Classics in Our Ancestors' Communities / Edith Hall (243)

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