The past year has seen relative stability for the Classics community in the Plains Region as this assessment is based upon extrapolations from rather limited information.
Carin Green reports that Classical programs found in Iowa continue to flourish. Of course the Classics Department at the University of Iowa continues as a hotbed of activity in the state, sponsoring major lecture series, offering Latin to high-school students whose schools do not offer the language, and serving Classicists both with traditional undergraduate/graduate programs and with innovative initiatives such as the Center for the Book. Yet with only two high schools in the entire state with a substantial Latin program (with a handful offering a year of instruction at best), the onus for training the next generation of Classicists falls squarely on the shoulders of Classics Departments at UI, Iowa State, Grinnell, Cornell, and the like. To the states credit, there is an organization called Amici (a sort of CAMWS writ small) aimed at high school Latin students; they offer a spring program every year, but with few students in scattered locations, bringing this meeting off is, according to Carin, a struggle.
In Oklahoma, Latin is being taught at the middle school and high school level in both public and private schools. Latin is offered in approximately 30 schools throughout the state. This year it appears that two Public School Latin teachers will retire. The good news is that there are a couple of potential candidates who have achieved state certification and will be able to fill these positions should they come open. In the past, the lack of qualified Latin teachers in the state has meant that when teachers retire or leave the entire Latin program within the school is put in danger due to a lack of replacement teachers. One Latin program was lost in the state last year in this way. As in the past, Oklahomas unwillingness to compensate teachers fairly puts the state near the bottom nationally in terms of wages. This of course makes it difficult to draw qualified teachers to the state and to retain the ones already there.
The University of Oklahoma continues to have a strong Latin program by offering degrees in Classics and Letters which both require Latin. Generally four sections of beginning Latin are offered in the fall semester and three in the spring semester at the University. Latin is offered at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. The University of Oklahoma also offers a Latin methodology class that is required by the Department of Education by students who wish to be certified to teach Latin. In this way, the Classics and Letters Department at the University of Oklahoma maintains a current list of potential teachers that can be drawn upon should positions open up in the state.
A new Latin Teaching Certification Test was implemented in 2000 in Oklahoma at the same time that new tests were put in place in every subject. It was mentioned in last years report that several of the Latin teachers have reservations about the test. At this point, one candidate has taken the test and successfully passed it.
The Oklahoma Classical Association met in the fall in conjunction with the general meeting of the Oklahoma Foreign Language Teachers Association. Very few of the state Latin teachers actually attended, and at the meeting it was decided that the OCA would have to be disbanded due to lack of interest and an unwillingness on the part of everyone to take on its executive offices. There has been a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the Oklahoma Foreign Language Teachers Association on the part of state Latin teachers. Generally Latin teachers feel, that Latin is ignored by the Association.
The National Junior Classical Leagues National Convention was held at the University of Oklahoma in August of 2000. This was an extremely successful convention with over 1400 students from throughout Canada and the United States participating. The convention was hosted by state high school teachers. Faculty from the University of Oklahoma participated in giving lectures.
As always, the quality and dedication of Latin teachers in Oklahoma must be mentioned. It is due to these outstanding teachers that such strong Latin programs exist and are able to host a major undertaking like the National Convention. In 2000, once again, one of the teachers nominated by his school for State Teacher of the Year was a Latin teacher. These Latin programs of course direct students into the programs that at the University of Oklahoma and contribute to the success of these programs.
The new Missouri Vice-President, Sue Ann Moore of the Columbia Independent School, has labored heroically on CPLs behalf despite two major stumbling blocks, namely the temporary demise of the Missouri Classical Association and the moribund state of the newsletter Sermones (the latter attributable to editorial neglect). Moore did discharge a vital duty by circulating the excellent new printed materials designed by CPL to encourage teacher-training in college/university Classics programs. She opines that Latin programs in Missouri have neither posted notable gains nor suffered undue losses over this past year and for that we are all grateful. She also passes along a couple of impressions which, though unsupported by statistical data or any systematic research, seem to be accurate: first, that the climate for growth in Latin programs is favorable, but the difficulty in finding teachers does not nurture such growth; second, that CAMWS continues to find most of its members in the ranks of the post-secondary professoriate and among teachers in independent schools. By contrast, colleagues toiling in the public sector tend to throw in their lot with the American Classical League particularly because historically speaking, Missouri high schools with Latin programs have been very active in the Junior Classical League on both local and national levels. The question which Moore raises and which warrants consideration is, can CAMWS realistically and practically reach out to our fellow laborers in the public-school side of the vineyard? If so, how?
Another challenge to Latin in Missouri is the untimely demise of the Missouri Classical Association mentioned above. MOCA did not meet this year, partly because of scheduling problems and partly because of burn-out on the part of the executive committee (the members of which have been habitually re-elected for lack of fresh blood). This unhappy fact lays bare a deeper problem and one that afflicts many CAMWS states, viz. Thriving Latin programs scattered over such considerable distances as to militate against state-wide meetings. For its part, MOCA has had a very difficult time drawing together Classicists from across the state, despite its attempt to meet in different locations. That fact, coupled with a lack of fresh leadership, caused the current officers to throw up their hands in despair and, yes, the decision was taken to let MOCA wither on the vine for 2000-2001. Investigations are under way to assess the feasibility of merging MOCA with the Missouri Philological Association which may give a needed injection of life; time will tell. Meanwhile, Classicists in Missouri tend to associate in smaller organizations, e.g. the Classics Club of St. Louis.
Then there is the perennial challenge of communication. Even if the newsletter should rise Phoenix like from the ashes, there would still be the problem of updating an aged and inaccurate mailing list; indeed there is no accurate idea of which high schools in this state have Latin/Classics programs. One important goal for this Region is to make an effort to develop a reasonably accurate database of programs and teachers in each of the states.
Teachers of Classics, whatever the level, tend to be passionate enough about the discipline that interesting things are happening in vital programs all over this Region, and indeed throughout CAMWS. Alas, those same people invest so much energy in their own personal spheres of influence that they have little energy, less time, and fewer resources to indulge in fellowship with their peers elsewhere. How CAMWS can realistically and effectively improve communication and collegiality remains an issue that must be addressed with wide-open, outside of the box thinking in the years ahead.
This material was posted on the web by CPL Chair, Tom Sienkewicz, at Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois. If you have any questions, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.