Life Intervenes?

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs!  I have a draft post for today that’s going to have to wait until tomorrow for several reason:

  1. A splitting sinus headache that had me laid up for most of the morning.
  2. A similar headache that’s currently afflicting Boy #1.
  3. A very exhausted Girl #1.
  4. A dear set of relatives enduring a crisis, who needed some help and support.

Of course, the life of a teacher is much like my not-as-expected day.  When you work with young people – and especially when you work with groups of young people – it’s predictable that there will be a crisis from time to time.  What’s not predictable, of course, is when the crisis will happen or what exactly it will look like.  One of the hardest lessons for a new teacher – and one that often has to be relearned over and over by us veterans – is how, when, and whether to lay aside the carefully crafted lesson plan to deal with the immediate crisis, the teachable moment.  In her remarkable books The Power of Their Ideas and In Schools We Trust, Deborah Meier talks about opportunities that she and her colleagues had, ranging from post-9/11 New York City to personal crises, illnesses, and deaths of students and family members.  Like all good teachers, they tried to do the best they could at the time, using the tools and information they had available.  Like all people, she felt on reflection that they’d succeeded sometimes, failed other times.  And like all good teachers, she remained committed to the struggle.

Tune in next time for our “regularly scheduled” post about using the Tres Columnae Project materials in a real-live classroom setting.  intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 5:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Family Stories

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today, as promised, we’ll begin with a few more thoughts about the 2010 American Classical League Institute, then share another story from Lectiō XXIV in which some of our non-human characters also talk about weddings – and issues related to weddings. I want to pick up on the notion of the ACL Institute as a “family reunion” – a common theme, as I mentioned yesterday, in closing speeches I’ve heard over the years – and build on it just a bit. Like any family, those of us who belong to the League and attend its Institutes each year are far from perfect, and like any family, we have our share of squabbles, conflicts, and disagreements. Some of those were certainly on display during plenary sessions – particularly the Monday session about the new Advanced Placement Latin exam and its syllabus, when some comments and questions were pointed, to say the least. And like any large family, those who attend the Institute seek out like-minded “relatives” and vent to them, at least for a short time; I’m certainly guilty of this myself, and I overheard bits of conversations, especially during breaks on Monday afternoon when everyone was tired, that led me to believe I wasn’t alone in that regard.

You might think that, in a perfect world or a perfectly functioning organization, there would be no need for such small groups. But researchers in the field of organizational change would disagree. For example, in their recent book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath describe a study of two different hospitals that attempted to limit the hours worked by their inter and resident physicians. One succeeded, and one did not. Ironically, more top administrators in the unsuccessful hospital supported the plan than in the successful hospital. The difference was that in the successful hospital, those who supported the change had a private place to meet, and they formed themselves into a support group with a common language – and a common commitment to work together to change the system. In the unsuccessful hospital, by contrast, everyone met together all the time, and the supporters never formed a cohesive group. What, on the surface, looked like a better way to build consensus actually turned out to be a less effective way.

So, if you’ve ever felt bad about forming a small group, conspiracy, or even cabal of like-minded people early in a change effort, I suppose the lesson is that those can be effective tools for change – of course, they also have certain obvious dangers. But then, as I think about tools in general, they often can be dangerous … especially if you don’t use them for their intended purpose, or if you don’t take proper precautions. You can cut yourself pretty badly with a knife or a saw; you can break things with a hammer; and let’s not even think about what an electric drill can do in untrained hands! But that doesn’t mean we avoid such tools completely; it means we need to remember to be careful. Good advice for those who are building anything, whether it’s a new approach, a new organization, or a new bookcase!

Anyway, in today’s story, we’ll hear the story of the arrangements for the marriage of Rapidus mūs, son of Rīdiculus and Impigra. I wonder if you’ll see any thematic connections between the two halves of this post! You can now find the story here at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, and you can find yesterday’s stories here (for Lucius’ initial conversation with Fabius) and here (for Fabius’ fable).

dum familia Valeria rēs nūptiālēs parat, Ferōx et Medūsa canēs in peristyliō dormiunt. Fortis et Celer, fīliī Ferōcis et Medūsae, iuxtā parentēs dormiunt. prope culīnam, in cavō parvō, Rapidus mūs cum familiā per rīmam prōspicit. Rapidus tamen, “heus!” inquit, “nihil intellegitis! hoc enim, ut pater meus cotīdiē explicāre solēbat, haudquāquam cavus, sed cēnāculum est!”

fIliī fīliaeque Rapidum amplexī, “nōnne,” inquiunt, “pater noster, fābulam nōbīs nārrāre vīs?” Pinguissima, uxor Rapidī, advenit et “mī Rapide,” inquit, “quid, sī līberīs dē nūptiīs nostrīs nārrābis?” Rapidus subrīdēns, “certē, Pinguissima mea,” respondet, et rem tōtam nārrat.

ōlim, inquit, pater meus, avus vester, ille Rīdiculus mūs, ex hōc cēnāculō ēgressus, mihi uxōrem dignam quaerēbat. “mē oportet,” sibi inquit, “fīliō meō uxōrem optimam invenīre.” in mediā culīnā avus vester illī Ferōcī canī forte occurrit et salūtāvit. tum Rīdiculus Ferōcem, “mī amīce,” rogāvit, “dīc mihi: quis est fortissimus omnium? nam uxōrem Rapidō, marītum Rapidae meae nunc quaerō. nōnne melius est Rapidō fīliam fortissimī dūcere, Rapidae fīliō fortissimī nūbere? quis igitur est fortissimus omnium?”

Ferōx subrīdēns, “fortasse leō est fortissimus omnium animālium, mī amīce,” Rīdiculō respondit. Rīdiculus tamen, “hercle!” exclāmāvit, “mūrēs nōn decet leōnēs dūcere! praetereā, leōnēs in cavīs, nōn cēnāculīs, habitāre solent. haud decet līberōs meōs in cavīs habitāre! et leōnēs, quamquam fortēs, haud sunt fortissimī omnium! nōnne enim gladiātōrēs in arēnā leōnēs interficere solent?”

Rīdiculus igitur, avus vester, ad cēnāculum nostrum revēnit, ubi somnium mīrābile habēbat. in somniīs sē vīdit rēgiam Aeolī, rēgis ventōrum, appropinquantem. iānuam pulsāvit et, ingressus, rēgem Aeolum salūtāvit. “mī rēx,” inquit, “nōnne Rapida, fīlia mea, ūnī ē ventīs tuīs nūbere potest?” rēx Aeolus valdē rīdēns, “cūr ventum generum tuum esse vīs?” rogāvit, et Rīdiculus, “quod fīlia mihi magnō cordī est! nōnne eam decet fortissimō omnium nūbere? et quid fortius est quam ventus?”

cui Aeolus, “heus!” respondit, “ventī meī, quamquam fortēs, haud fortissimī omnium sunt! ecce turris, quī in istā īnsulā stat! centum enim annōs ventī meī istam turrim pulsant, sed frustrā! nōnne turris multō fortior est quam ventī?”

et Rīdiculus, “tibi grātiās agō, mī rēx,” respondit, “quod mihi fortissimum omnium ita dēmōnstrās.” in somniīs ad turrim celeriter advenit, quam salutāvit. “cūr mē adloqueris, mūs?” respondit turris perterrita, et Rīdiculus, “tē salūtō,” respondit, “quod fortior es quam omnēs ventī! nōnne fīlium habēs, quī fīliam meam uxōrem dūcere potest? nōnne fīlia, quam fīlius meus dūcere potest?” turris attonitus, “heus!” respondit, “turris sum, nōn bēstia! līberī mihi sunt nūllī! praetereā, tē timeō!” et Rīdiculus attonitus, “mē timēs?” respondit. “tū autem turris maxima, ego mūs parvus sum. cūr mē timēs?” tum turris vehementer tremēns, “tē timeō,” respondit, “quod cotīdiē mūrēs mē dentibus suīs perforant! vae! heu! viās per mē faciunt! nisi dēstiterint istī, ego mox cum maximō frāgōre ad terram dēcidam! abī, mūs, tē valdē timeō!”

tum Rīdiculus, avus vester, ē somniīs surrēxit et “heus!” exclāmāvit. “mihi necesse est mūrēs quaerere, quod nōs mūrēs fortissimī sumus omnium! praetereā, ventī in cavō, turrēs in campō apertō habitāre solent. līberōs tamen meōs decet coniugēs habēre, quī in cēnāculō habitāre possunt!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in next time for your comments, our responses, and the beginning of a new series of posts in honor of the new month. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Building Understanding, VI: Housing, Families, and Pietas

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we continue our series on Understanding, shifting the focus from language elements (like nouns and verbs) and a Connection or Comparison task (like native-language derivatives from Latin) to focus on Roman Culture. As you may recall if you’ve read the stories in Lectiō Prīma on the Version Alpha Wiki site, our cultural goals for Lectiō Prīma include helping our learners to

compare housing and family structure in Roman world with our own housing and family structure

begin to understand, analyze, and explore the concept of pietās

Our faithful reader Laura G pointed out in this blog post that we’ve done a lot with housing and family structure, but not so much with pietās in the materials she’d seen. Today and tomorrow we’ll attempt to make the pietās connections clearer.

First, for our readers who may not be experts on Roman beliefs and values, I suppose we should try to define and translate pietās … except that it’s a completely untranslatable Roman concept! If you doubt my claim of untranslatability, just check out this lengthy definition for the adjective pius and this even longer definition for pietās itself and see if you can find a single-word equivalent in any language other than Latin! 🙂 In a nutshell, pietās is the way a Roman acts so that he (or she) is in the right relationship to everyone: family, friends, the state, the gods, nature, enemies … everyone and everything. It has a lot more to do with conduct than with inner attitudes or beliefs – which is perfectly natural for Roman culture but often leaves twentieth- and twenty-first-century Americans and Europeans scratching their heads in confusion.

That’s one reason why our goal is to begin to explore the concept; fully exploring it will be, in some senses, the work of the entire Tres Columnae project and possibly beyond. But of course, with any huge exploration, you do have to start somewhere. That’s why we chose to begin with housing and family structures. In any culture, the layout and design of people’s homes says a lot about what they value and what their culture as a whole values, and housing is closely related to family structure. For example, I’m writing this post in a “family room” which is designed to be the heart of the house, with a fireplace on one wall and the perfect-sized space for an “entertainment center” (big cabinet for TV and stereo) on another wall. The house was built in the early 1990’s, and it absolutely reflects a cultural view of what families “should” do (sit together in the evenings after dinner and watch TV) that was dominant in this part of the U.S. at that time. A different house, built at another time in another part of the world, would have a very different layout.

So, after they read stories set in a domus and an īnsula, our participants will have the opportunity to explore lots of freely available online images of domūs and īnsulae. (Over time, we hope that lots of them will go to Roman sites, including Herculaneum, and contribute their own photos and other images of what they see, too!) We’ll also provide some links to a range of different perspectives about Roman family structure, probably with a few annotations about the perspective or “slant” of the authors if that’s important for our readers. We’ll then offer a Continuing Virtual Seminar in which participants can explore issues about housing, family, or both, depending on their particular interests and goals.

After that, though, we’ll begin to address the issue of pietās more formally with a sequence like this:

quid novī?

If you think back to our five goals for Lectiō Prīma, you may remember that the fifth goal was

begin to understand, analyze, and explore the concept of pietās

We haven’t used the word very much … mostly because it’s very difficult to represent in English. Check out this Wikipedia article, this definition of the adjective pius, and this definition of pietās itself, and you’ll see what we mean! You’ll also, notice, though, that pietās is closely connected with familia. Pietās is much broader and deeper than just “devotion to your family,” but “devotion to your family” is a big part of it.

What evidence of devotion – and concern for right relationships and proper conduct – among familia members have you seen in the stories in Lectiō Prīma? Please take a moment or two to record them in your Tres Columnae learning blog. You may even want to begin to compare pietās with your own ideas about duty, respect, and devotion to family – especially if your ideas are very similar to pietās or very different from it! Then, if you’d like, please feel free to join the Continuing Virtual Seminar about pietās and share your thoughts with others.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you’re familiar with pietās, like many readers of the blog, do you agree with our (very inadequate) attempt at a definition? If not, we’d really like to hear from you, because we’re quite dissatisfied with it ourselves!
  • What do you think about the sequence of tasks? They’re a bit more free-form than the ones about grammar and etymology, but we think that’s appropriate under the circumstances. On the other hand, we may well be wrong … and if so, we’d really like for you to tell us!
  • What do you think about pietās (and the other principal virtūtēs) as an organizing principle for the Tres Columnae storyline? If you’ve explored the stories beyond Lectiō I, can you see how we’ll continue to play with pietās, dignitās, gravitās, and the other big –tās words as we consider our characters’ motivations, behaviors, thoughts, and words?
  • Have you seen any characters who seem utterly un-Roman in their conduct or attitudes?
  • And what about our “naughty” characters like young Cnaeus Caelius? His parents frequently complain that he impiē sē gerit … and what conclusions should we draw from that? Is he behaving in an un-Roman way, or just a bad Roman way? And is there a difference?

Tune in next time when we’ll try to have some answers to some of these questions. Due to the Memorial Day holiday in the U.S., we’ll be taking a break from posting on Saturday and Monday – and I hope our Roman characters would agree, as we’ll take some time to honor those who have sacrificed much for our freedom and security. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.