The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

Opinion: Latin On The Line?

The+online+latin+website+often+shows+a+loading+screen.+%7C+Theogony+image+by+Peter+Russo
The online latin website often shows a loading screen. | Theogony image by Peter Russo

As the 2023-2024 school year began, students at ACHS were dismayed to find that their beloved Latin program was on the chopping block. Starting this year, Latin I, II and III will be taught exclusively online while levels IV, V and VI will be combined into a singular in-person class taught by Justin Redpath. 

However, this decision was not completely unexpected. Discussions concerning the Latin program’s relevance as a class at ACHS have been taking place for years. While there have been fairly high levels of enrollment in the past, admission has dropped in recent years.

This eventually prompted last school year’s arrangement for lower-level Latin classes: Latin I and II were combined into one in-person class period (Latin IV-VI were also combined in one period, but this is normal for higher level language classes). Latin III was its own individual class. 

It feels like an oversight of the ACHS Administration to completely overhaul Latin’s structure while providing little to no support for teachers, students or parents. Latin seems to be increasingly overlooked and undervalued as these changes to the Latin program seem outrageous and unfair to students interested in learning the language. Latin I and II discuss foundational understandings that are not taught as well when combined into one class. 

With three World Language credits required for all students wishing to graduate with an Advanced Studies Diploma, it is frustrating to see Latin be pushed to the sidelines. Unless Latin students completely switch languages, they must continue their Latin classes through undesirable conditions in order to receive their necessary credits. 

Anecdote from Rozalia Finkelstein:

I took Latin I (in the combined class with Latin II) during the 2022-2023 school year as a freshman. I hadn’t accumulated any language credits during middle school, so it’s a requirement for me to take three years of a language in high school if I want to achieve an Advanced Diploma. Overall, the experience was very enjoyable. I learned a lot about Latin vocabulary, grammar and culture. It was hectic to have both Latin I and II in the same class period, but I was able to succeed by putting in effort outside of class. However, many of my classmates struggled staying focused on asynchronous during the class time Mr. Redpath dedicated to Latin II. When it was announced in an email by Mr. Redpath that Latin II would only be offered online this year, I was devastated. As I’d already completed one year of Latin, I could either continue with Latin online— which I didn’t particularly want to do— or enroll in a different language in-person and leave behind my Latin knowledge.

While the online Latin program may seem logical at first glance, it is not hard to see the flaws with this solution. Online courses prove difficult to engage with and navigate, especially if a student is enrolling in the online class out of necessity rather than choice. This is especially evident after the infamous Covid-19 pandemic, where students were forced to attend all their classes via Zoom. According to a Virginia Study discussing Covid’s effect on K-12 education, academic achievement declined during the 2020-2021 year. While factors other than online learning undeniably had an influence, it is foolhardy to imply that the in-person aspect of regular classes doesn’t create an impact on learning.

Anecdote from Peter Russo: 

I had the opportunity to experience online Latin this past summer. I took and completed the Latin II program on Edgenuity. The absence of a physical teacher proved to be an obstacle early on, as it often took my online teacher a while to respond to my emails about content, coursework and assessments. I struggled more with this class than I had in my previous year of taking Latin, not just because it was the next step up from Latin I, but because I was clueless on half of the knowledge that the program assumed I’d have from Latin I. This is because I had completely switched curriculums when going from an in-person curriculum written by ACPS to a completely different online one by a third-party company. 

Latin I and II are both on Edgenuity, but Latin III is on a completely different program called Florida Virtual School. The requirements for each course, and what is expected of a student, changes drastically from platform to platform. Going from consistent, regular testing in Edgenuity’s Latin II to having to have in-depth conversations with your Florida Virtual instructor about Roman history and mythology in Latin III makes for a turbulent learning curve. Additionally, there were technical problems concerning the different online programs themselves. Each application had its own set of bugs, and support to correct them in a timely manner was practically nonexistent.

Anecdote from Peter Russo:

An issue I had with Edgenuity was that the program had several errors, from basic typos to outright incorrect answers on warm-ups and practice tests. I notified the instructor with screenshots every time I encountered one, but all the instructor could do was report it up the chain of command due to how impersonal the program’s organization and leadership was. I could only catch these errors in practice tests and warm-up games, but I have no clue how many errors were present in the actual tests since I could not review my answers to tests after I had taken them; I could only see my score. Normally, in a traditional in-person class, if you encounter an error with a grade, you can talk to your teacher about it and get it corrected on the spot. But on the online program, it seems like it’s a “tough luck”situation where you can only hope to get your grade changed to reflect your mastery of the material. 

ACHS has failed the Latin program in a way that is depressing and embarrassing. The Latin language carries a rich history that helps provide perspective on the modern world. Learning in-person is easier not only because students can get instruction and help from their teacher instantly but because they can work with the teacher to make lessons more unique and better fit the student. 

Offering certain levels of Latin— particularly the beginning levels, where students are struggling to adjust to a different way of thinking— solely online stops students from being in an environment where they could flourish, as they are not able to choose their method of education and therefore learn to the best of their abilities. If it is necessary for some levels of Latin to be online, the beginner levels should be offered in-person and the more advanced levels should be online— not the other way around. Learning a language through what is practically self-study online is no way to gain proficiency. Online programs are a cold teacher.

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