How Many Masters Do You Have?

What if the test to which you are teaching interferes with the truth? And what if you can’t tell because the way it interferes is by negation?

Here is an example of how it works:

In 2009, the College Board, which administers the SAT and advanced placement exams to millions of high school students, discontinued the AP exam in Latin literature. Fewer than 2,000 students sat to translate Cicero and parse the poetry of Catullus the last time the test was administered. Though an AP exam on Virgil remains, the College Board’s decision further marginalized classical studies in American education.

Daniel Walker Howe
The Wilson Quarterly: Classical Education in America

I have a very simply question for you. Did you know about this?

A follow-up: does your school want AP’s or does it think highly of the SAT or other works by the College Board? Has anybody in your school ever examined the pedagogy or philosophy of the College Board?

If we depend on the AP or the SAT for validation, then we can’t succeed? Why not? Because they don’t assess for the kinds of things we want to teach. If we seek validation from the SAT, we’ll try to succeed on the SAT. The pressure to teach a disintegrated curriculum and to ignore the core arts of a classical curriculum will be insurmountable.

If we seek validation from the AP, we’ll teach to do well on the AP’s. Some of them are pretty good. But the things we want them to test are low priorities for them. Also, I’m not sure the AP’s can test literature according to its nature, since it is all about judgment and irony.

We teach what we teach because we believe in it, not because it will help our students do better on tests. At least, we do if we believe in it. If not, I’m not sure why we teach it. If you are a Pragmatist, the state schools have your curriculum. If you are a classical educator, you have to realize that you are a source of confusion and irritation to the “establishment.” Don’t let them be your masters.

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