Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Preserve the Classics: Don't Allow the Alt-Right to Define Us

I just returned from ACTFL, where I celebrated languages and cultures from all over the world along with another 8500 teachers. I returned excited and energized and ready to share what I learned and the things that I am currently thinking about. And I will, in another post.

Instead, this post is a call to action. There is a group of white supremacists, calling themselves the "Alt-Right," who are using a shallow understanding of the Classics and of Greece and Rome to justify their self-importance and racist propaganda. You can find excerpts on their general stances here. Donna Zuckerberg, editor of Eidolon, a Princeton-educated Classicist, published "How to Be a Good Classicist Under a Bad Emperor" yesterday, eloquently outlining the Alt-Right's interest in and use of the Classics and the reasons we should not allow it. 

She writes, "This is my call to arms for all classicists. No matter how white and male Classics once was, we are not that anymore. In spite of the numerous obstacles that remain, our field is now more diverse than ever, and that is something to be proud of. These men are positioning themselves as the defenders of Western Civilization. Classicists, when you see this rhetoric, fight back. We must not allow the Alt-Right to define what Classics will mean in Trump’s America.

She's right. 

Zuckerberg describes several ways in which, "when we see Classics used to support a hateful politics, we must push back — unless we want to live through a second wave of fascist classical reception." Read her article. It is important, and part of an important dialogue we need to start now.

I'm going to add to this. Bob Patrick pointed out today that we are also teachers in a field that has long been dominated not only by white teachers but by white students. Our field has long been thought of as elite, exclusive. This also helps the Alt-Right build a white image of Classics and Classical studies.

So Miriam and I are making our own call to action. Comprehensible Input and Communicative teaching are naturally inclusive methods, reaching all skill levels, races, and economic backgrounds. Creating a safe classroom culture means that all types of students feel welcome with you as you celebrate ancient people. We can change the face of our student population as we change the nation's understanding of our field of study.

If you teach inclusively, present. If you know how to create a safe classroom culture, share your knowledge. 

We won't have to take back the Classics because we won't let them be usurped.