Your Latin Program: Exclusive or Inclusive? (1 of 3)

Some have described the way I teach languages as ideological or dogmatic—other contributors to this blog are no strangers to that criticism, either—and it’s certainly true that a lot of my teaching is directly informed by definitive research, but I no longer feel the need to espouse and cite research to arrive at the following, in classic chiastic (< chiasmus) form:

1) ALL humans can acquire a second language.
2) Few humans learn about languages.
3) Programs based on learning about Latin are exclusive.
4) Programs based on acquiring Latin are inclusive.

Reasons for #1 should be obvious in that all humans are “wired” to communicate. Reasons for #2 are unclear, though lack of interest is most likely the cause—an example of how important compellingness is—but the result of programs focused on learning about Latin has two crystal clear outcomes; at best, very few students remain in the program; at worst, enrollment is less-affected because the program is already exclusive to the few students who learn about languages anyway. In both scenarios, the few exceptional students serve as validation for a Latin program’s success—this in spite of most students who could have been included.

This is a social justice fail.

The question, then, for another post is “how do I base my program on acquiring Latin?”

**Read the second, and third follow-up posts**

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8 thoughts on “Your Latin Program: Exclusive or Inclusive? (1 of 3)

  1. Very often we hear Latin teachers push back with their own experiences, joys and delights in grammar study, paradigms, diagramming sentences, word for word translations, flash cards, etc. And those are all true reports of their own joy in those things. That’s the issue: teachers and the few students who enjoy those kinds of things will find them personally valuable and the reasons for why they love Latin. If the material is not comprehensible and compelling, learners do not stick with the language and the language does not stick with (become acquired) by them.

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  2. Oh gosh, you really shouldn’t say “Programs based on acquiring Latin *are* inclusive.” Are you so sure? In the inclusion world the catch phrase is “all means all.” Are you sure your classes are working, for instance, for students with processing speed issues? What about students who are unable to read non-verbal cues (a staple of most world language instruction). What about students who have great difficulty processing verbal instructions? True inclusion is something that must be worked at diligently. It requires vigilance. While it may be true that all humans can acquire language, not all students are capable of functioning in a world language classroom (even one that uses the very best pedagogical practices), without appropriate accommodations. Certainly “programs based on acquiring language *may* be inclusive,” but as the father of a child with special needs, let me assure you that that are not automatically so!

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    1. Brian, let me assure you of two things–besides the fact that you make very good points–all! 1) In the use of Comprehensible Input the very nature of the process is to constantly be making accommodations. So, while that doesn’t assure that everything will always be perfect, it does mean that CI teachers are constantly accommodating. 2) True inclusion is something that must be worked at constantly, and CI is the kind of approach that requires the teacher to constantly work at inclusion. It never allows the teacher to become a static “tool” who moves through the same motions, the same tired worksheets, and the same chapters year after year. That’s why most of us who teach with CI will tell you up front that this is fairly exhausting work, and that we love it! It makes progress and success possible for all kinds of students. In our school, we are the teachers who are the favorite of the Special Ed department–not because we are perfect, but because we are constantly adapting for the needs of the student. I love your rage over what you know your child needs. We welcome that kind of rage in becoming better Latin teachers for students just like your child.

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      1. Not sure I meant to convey rage!. Social media can be problematic when it comes to tone! It just makes me uneasy when teachers say “because I do X, I am automatically covering my students with special needs.” Of course that’s not exactly what this post said, but there’s something of that in the certitude and finality of “Programs based on acquiring Latin *are* inclusive:.There are certain students for whom a typical world language class (even an outstanding one) would be a disaster without significant modifications. And these often require a great deal of sensitivity (and effort). It seems to me surety (and in some teachers — not here on this blog! — smugness) is the enemy of inclusion!

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      2. “There are certain students for whom a typical world language class (even an outstanding one) would be a disaster without significant modifications.”

        – The operative word being “typical,” and, sadly, inclusive classrooms are atypical.

        It also just occurred to me that all of the disabilities you mentioned that students come into the classroom with are measured against an already acquired language, not a new one!

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    2. “Are you so sure?”

      – Yes.

      “Are you sure your classes are working, for instance, for students with processing speed issues?”

      – Yes. Whether with processing “issues” or just slower-processing, the recognition of these so-called “barometer students” allow for adjustments to be made by the teacher in order to include those students. The teacher can certainly ask additional higher-order questioning levels to fast-processors without changing the main idea for the slowest-processors. Think in terms of Embedded Readings, and you’ll have a better sense of how this plays out.

      “What about students who have great difficulty processing verbal instructions?”

      – I avoid giving in instructions in the target language because I find it cumbersome, but if I did, your concern would be safeguarded by constant comprehension checks.

      “Not all students are capable of functioning in a world language classroom (even one that uses the very best pedagogical practices), without appropriate accommodations.”

      – I completely agree, however, students with documented accommodations just happen to be the lucky ones…ALL students have an individualized education plan if you really think about it.

      “as the father of a child with special needs, let me assure you that that are not automatically so!”

      – I cannot answer for how well your child’s teacher carries out their practices, but if you still have concerns, at least recognize that a program based on learning ABOUT language will be so far from inclusive that arguments against programs based on acquisition are moot.

      We have found that teaching for acquisition levels the playing field. The other kind of classroom won’t.

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