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Cambridge School Classics Project (NA)

 

The pain and anger expressed by Black communities, in the US and around the world, have yet again highlighted the ways in which individuals of colour are victims of marginalisation, discrimination and violence. We at the Cambridge School Classics Project believe strongly that racial injustice cannot be ignored or excused. The Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge has released a statement expressing his own concerns, but as stated in the University’s Race and Equality Charter, responsibility for race equality must be embedded at every level of the University. It is important that CSCP affirm our own support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Much has been written on the role of Classics in the continued marginalisation of people of colour and the need for the discipline to tackle its whiteness. These arguments have been made with passion, intelligence and righteous fury in ways this statement cannot hope to emulate. Instead, this is a statement of action; to demonstrate that we are listening and, more importantly, have heard the message of our colleagues of colour.

For more than 50 years the Cambridge School Classics Project has tried to bring Latin and Classical Subjects within the reach of all students. In that time we made many mistakes. For these we apologise. From these we will learn.

In his article “Why students of color don’t take Latin” John Bracey wrote “It is easy for even the most well-intentioned Latin teacher to inadvertently alienate students of color”. In the very next sentence he links to criticism of the CLC; its uncritical presentation of Rome and its imperialism, and lack of prominent people of colour. It is by working with remarkable activists like John that we can truly hope to make a difference in Classics classrooms. We thank him (and others!) for their continued critical friendship.

CSCP is committed to a culture of constant improvement. The following are actions which have already been undertaken as well as pledges for the future:

  • All CSCP materials will be created with a view to forwarding the cause of social justice and decolonisation. All will be reviewed by individuals specialising in racial justice.
  • Included in the above will be the Cambridge Latin Course. The new UK/International 5th, and all future editions, will better represent people of colour and promote critical engagement with matters such as imperialism, slavery and cultural subjugation.
  • A full review of the Teacher Guides for the UK/International edition to offer clear advice and guidance on tackling issues of social justice has been completed and new versions are available online. A similar review of the North American guidance is forthcoming.
  • When selecting academics to review or contribute to our materials, we will ensure that scholars of colour are highly represented and their scholarship given prominence and credit.
  • Among the first articles to be posted as part of our new blog (launching Summer 2020) will be those addressing the need to decolonise classics, speaking to the experiences of students of colour, and reflecting the diversity of classical scholarship and the reception of classical texts in world literature.

We would like to finish with a call to action across our community. Classrooms are places where ideas are challenged and people – both students and teachers – grow and learn. We hope that our teachers, colleagues, students and friends will stand with us in our commitment to listen to voices such as that of Pria Jackson, a pre-Doctoral Fellow at Princeton University, and take their advice to heart:

“So don’t waste a single class session! Be anti-racist everyday in every class! White supremacy is already in your classroom, so adopt a zero tolerance policy and teach it right out the door.”

 

If you would like to leave a comment or contact us about the issues raised in this statement, please do so here.