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UK school Latin course overhauled to reflect diversity of Roman world | Languages

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Popular latin the course, which has been used to teach generations of British schoolchildren, has undergone its biggest revamp in 50 years to include more prominent female characters and better reflect the ethnic diversity of the Roman world.

The fifth edition of the Cambridge Latin Course (CLC), a mainstay of mainly private schools since the 1970s, will be published later this month in response to concerns from teachers, academics and students about the representation of women, minorities and enslaved people in earlier versions.

Girls studying in the story course complained that the female roles were few and passive and underdeveloped. There was also criticism that the Roman world was wrongly portrayed as predominantly white, and objections to the way slaves and slavery were presented.

The course, which has sold more than 4 million copies and was last updated more than 20 years ago, has achieved cult status in the decades since it was first introduced, even inspiring cameo in Doctor Who. However, there is a growing consensus that it needs to be updated for 21st-century students and modern sensibilities, although the editors fear they will be accused of “cancelling” aspects of the original.

The first book, set in Pompeii in the first century AD, focuses on the family of Lucius Caecilius Iucunda, his wife Metele, son Quintus, cook Grumion, and faithful dog Cerberus. The new version features a daughter named Lucia, who is told by her father that he intends to marry her off to an older man in order to further explore the experiences of young women.

Another new female character, Clara, is hired by Caecilius to paint a mural in his house in the new edition, while Barbylus, a successful Greco-Syrian merchant who appeared in the second book of the previous editions, is given a more prominent role and now obviously a colored person. It was not clear from the drawings before.

Slavery, meanwhile, is portrayed through the eyes of its victims, revealing the harsh reality of their lives in the Roman Empire. One infamous episode from the original 1970s edition, in which a young slave girl named Melissa is lasciviously examined by the household, prompting a jealous response from Metella, was changed.

“Students today are much more aware of power dynamics and misogyny, not to mention issues of consent and sexual violence,” said Caroline Bristow, director of the Cambridge Institute. schools A classic project leading a course at Cambridge University.

The editors also removed the expressions “faithful”, “happy”, “industrious” and “lazy” that existed in previous editions. “The goal has always been to introduce students to the complexity of the Roman world and have them think critically about it while learning Latin,” Bristow said. “It prepares them for a more thorough study of authentic classical sources. In the feedback we have received, we are not doing enough in this regard.’

Bristow braces herself for accusations from traditionalists that she is trying to “undo” Caecilius. “Our critics are annoyed by the fact that we do not present Rome exclusively as a civilized culture. The reason is that we teach children to be classics. We do not teach them to be Romans.’

There are even changes in the way gladiatorial fights are depicted according to recent scholars who have found that they were not purely bloodthirsty but reflected modern values ​​such as martial arts.

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Stephen Hunt, a Latin scholar at Cambridge University who has taught Latin for 35 years and now trains teachers, supports the change. “Every textbook needs revision from time to time. CLC stands out among school textbooks in that it has been around since the 1970s.”

Around 10,000 students take GCSE Latin each year, and the majority are at private schools the government is trying to increase the number in the public sector. According to a recent survey by the British Council, Latin is taught in less than 3% of state schools compared to 49% of independent schools.

Jasmine Elmer, a classicist whose work focuses on trying to expand access to the ancient world, said: “We’ve tended to take an all-white view of an empire that clearly didn’t exist. If you’re a person of color, it’s only natural to wonder if there were people like you out there. This is a catastrophic failure of our subject and needs to be fixed.

“The New Deal seems to be bolder on these issues. He does not shy away from a difficult subject; it turns it into learning points.”

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