Virtual Seminars, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! At the end of yesterday’s post, our fictional Tres Columnae subscriber Jane had just posted her answer to the Opening question of a Continuing Virtual Seminar about animals in the fable tradition. Today we’ll explore what Jane might find in the Core of the virtual seminar, and we’ll also consider some logistical issues about Virtual Seminar participation.

First, one caveat: I think we can force our underlying software to do what I’m describing here! If not, we’ll find another way … and early versions of Tres Columnae may possibly not include all these features. If they don’t, though, we’ll bring the missing ones online as quickly as we can.

In any case, Jane has now entered the Virtual Seminar, where she finds a series of Thematic Threads. Some were created by “Somebody at Tres Columnae,” while others were added by seminar participants. Jane scans over them and chooses one called “Lupī et pietās,” begun by a Tres Columnae user you all know named “admin.” The question reads,

To what extent do the wolves in the story display – or not display – pietās in their interactions with Trux?

There are 14 responses already:

  • CaeliolaVera (the seminar name of Jane’s friend Ashley, who lives down the street) says “R U serious? Wolves with pietas? OK, they obviously say nothing about the state or the gods. I guess they’re loyal to each other, but they lied to Trux and tried to eat him! No pietas there!”
  • The second response, from someone Jane hasn’t met named Gladiator1234, says, “But CaeliolaVera, did they actually lie to him? Lupa said she was alone (sola sum ut vides), and at that time she was. She said she wanted a husband (maritum fortissimum quaero) and if he took their offer, he would probably be her mate. Plus, the other wolves told him what they wanted him to do. Where did anybody lie to him?
  • Then comes this response from CaeliolaVera, “Maybe not exactly lied, but they didn’t tell the whole truth. Besides, Lupa told Trux he was a big brave wolf (nonne tu es lupus fortissimus) and he obviously isn’t one.”
  • Response #4, from admin, says “CaeliolaVera, I think I know what you’re talking about when you said the wolves didn’t tell the whole truth, but what evidence would you cite from the text?”
  • #5 is CaeliolaVera, “O sorry, when Lupa is talking to Trux about the maritus and lupus fortissimus stuff. She doesn’t tell him, there’s actually three male wolves too, and what we really want you to do is help us eat your sheep and cows.”
  • #6, from someone named CryBabyCnaeus, is an audio clip, which Jane clicks on. He says, “OK, yeah, I guess that’s true, but come on. Do you think Trux would have actually gone with her if she said something like that? Dogs can be dumb sometimes, but not that dumb. He wouldn’t ever go with her if he thought there were three big hungry wolves waiting for him.”
  • #7, an audio from CaeliolaVera, says “Yes, CryBabyCnaeus, which is exactly my point. She lied. No pietas! Plus, I love your seminar name!”
  • #8, from admin, goes back to text. It says “So let’s think about pietās, as we’ve explored it from the beginning of Lectiō Prīma. CaeliolaVera said, in effect, that lying and pietās are opposites. But what if you’re a Roman dealing with an untrustworthy enemy – or, in this case, a wolf dealing with a potentially hostile dog? Let’s try to keep a Roman perspective rather than a 21st-century American one. For a Roman, would it be OK to lie to someone who might be lying to you?”
  • #9, 10, 11, and 12 are various responses to this question, evenly divided between those who say “lying is always wrong in all cultures” and those who say “maybe, but people in all cultures do lie, especially when they’re protecting themselves.”

Jane’s head is spinning a bit at this point, but then she thinks of something and posts this, using her seminar name of PuellaLaetissima:

OK, but is there a difference between lying and not telling the whole truth? I think what Lupa told Trux was mostly true (sola sum, maritum quaero), but she just left some stuff out. And the other wolves did tell Trux what they wanted him to do. And they even gave him a second chance when he said he didn’t want to. How is that not pietas? And what about clementia like in the story with the nasty boy at school? His dad was going to sell him into slavery but he didn’t. And the wolves were going to eat Trux, but they didn’t either. Clementia and pietas, right?

Jane is tired at this point, so she chooses to exit the seminar for now. According to her account settings, which she can change any time she wants to, she’ll get email notifications of additional comments in this thread. Since Jane is under 18, she can’t receive private messages from other subscribers or send them, though we may possibly enable adult participants to do so. When she’s tired of participating in this seminar, she can choose not to receive further notifications about it; if she wants to rejoin, she can do so and re-enable those notifications. I think we’ll be able to distinguish currently active participants from those who are inactive in a fairly simple way.

Anyway, Jane takes a quick look at her Learning Log blog and notes 1 response, with text, for today’s date. It’s time for supper, so she logs out of the system for the day. Down the street, a couple of hours later, CaeliolaVera is really impressed with Jane’s point and starts to write a response to it. Gladiator1234, a young American soldier stationed overseas who’s learning Latin “for fun” and “because Julius Caesar was the greatest military mind ever,” won’t see her post for a couple of days due to a situation, but he’ll also be impressed when he gets a chance to read it.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of this sample seminar? It’s based on some face-to-face ones that I’ve conducted over the years, though the specific text and responses have obviously been altered.
  • What do you think of the idea of Thematic Threads from which people choose?
  • For that matter, what do you think of the large element of choice in the whole Virtual Seminar process .. and throughout the Tres Columnae system? It’s very different from the standardized, compulsory approach (“it’s Tuesday, so everyone will be doing Exercise 4 on p. 125”) that has characterized Factory-model schools for the last 100 years or so! But does it make conceptual sense to you, even though it’s so different? Or do you think we need a more prescribed approach?

Tune in next time, when we’ll look more closely at the logistics of Virtual Seminars and address an important question about Part III of the story, in which Trux has a remarkable dream. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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