Learning Classics is a bit like putting on a magic pair of 3-D glasses. Once you start delving into the language and the culture, you'll start to see it all around you. This blog is a record of the club's journey through the worlds and language of ancient Rome and Greece... and through modern times, too, searching for the influence of classics all around us. You'll also be able to find vocab, home tasks, links and generally enlightening info here, too.

26 May 2017

Lessons 16 & 17 - Unmythable

Moving on from democracy (and psychology!), over the last two weeks we've been looking at another thing for which the Ancient Greeks are rightly famous:

Cyclops - some serious image rehabilitation
We kicked off with a quiz, identifying Ancient Greek mythological characters and their modern-day descendants. Then, always keeping an eye on the modern as well as the ancient, we investigated why these intriguing and often scary tales play such an important part in so many cultures. 

We all agreed on Mormo and Father Christmas as tales used to keep naughty children in check. There was also consensus on mermaids and the Taraxippi as myths that helped explain natural phenomena. However, the debate got very lively when it came onto the origins of UFO stories. Some of us bought into the fact that these stories tap into human physiology (sleep paralysis) and psychology (addressing our deepest fears), and perhaps even controlling the masses, but others argued that they weren't myths at all, but true accounts of actual events. 

Always listen to your dad!
In language work, we continued our mythological theme, looking at the 'Metmorphoses', Greek myths written down in poems by the Latin writer Ovid. Specifically, we looked at the myth of Icarus (which you already knew in such detail - awesome!). We played a game of Word Roots Challenge using a section of the poem, and then we translated a simplified Latin version of the myth.

And, as promised, if any of you want to re-watch that clip of Odysseus (a.k.a. Nobody) outwitting Polyphemus the Cyclops, here you go:

14 May 2017

Lesson 15: All too human

After a little bit of Latin language work (quick fire verbs, noun endings), we picked up on the serious business of Plato's idea that most humans are not fit for deciding their own government (i.e. democracy). Surely some mistake?

After listening (again!) to the excellent Ken Taylor (see last' week's entry), we considered the ways in which regular people are not always straight-thinking, rational beings. We dug deep into the Card Experiment (thank you, Isaac, for a wonderfully clear explanation!), which shows us that the human mind tends to look for confirmation of what it already believes to be true ('confirmation bias'). "So what?!" you may think. "What does a bunch of cards have to do with how people vote? Well, we then discussed the issue of fake news, and how people tend to look for stories that confirm, rather than challenge, their political beliefs.

We then took a quiz that illustrated some of the other human biases discovered by psychological research: attribution bias (when I do well, it's because I'm awesome, but if I don't it's because my external circumstances were to blame), overconfidence bias (I overestimate my ability to get things right), ingroup bias (favouring people in my group) and primacy/recency bias (remembering the first and last things you heard/saw, but not so much the bit in the middle). If you're interested, you can read more here.

So, bringing it all back to Plato, Ken Taylor ends on a note of optimism. Humans may be biased, but hey, at least we now know it. Maybe now we can try not to be like this and democracy will be a better system. What do you think?...

08 May 2017

Lesson 14 - Encountering the irrational

Half this lesson was devoted to translating Latin sentences (no warm-ups, straight in at the deep end).
Using vocab lists and tables to help with our sentence translations...

Each sentence started out with a verb, then added one or two nouns. The class had to 'squeeze' as much information as possible (who? what? when?) out of the verb, then decide whether the nouns were subject or object, singular or plural.

After that, time to philosophise... We've been thinking over the last few weeks about the best ways to govern a country (topical!), and it's safe to say that we all accept Plato's point that democracy's a less-than-perfect system: people don't always think straight when choosing their leaders.

But can we do anything to help this situation? We listened to Ken Taylor, who thinks we can:
Now, there are some complicated ideas in here (it's a TED talk, after all!), but the main thing that Ken Taylor is saying is that:

  • yes, humans make mistakes

  • modern science (psychology) helps us to understand these mistakes ('cognitive biases')

  • if we understand them, we are less likely to let them affect our thinking

  • we all need to become better philosophers (or psychologists, which boils down to the same thing for him - it's all about gaining and using wisdom).

 Next week, we'll have a fun look at some of the unexpected and biased ways your brain makes decisions.

01 May 2017

Lesson 13: Language recap

A session of language work this week, recapping everything we know about Latin nouns and verbs. 

After recapping this information, and warming our brains up by looking at how to squeeze verbs for as much 'who, when and what' as possible, we went on to translate some sentences, all containing the words 'regina' ('queen'), 'gladius' ('sword') and 'habere' ('to have').
Such tiny differences on the ends of words can make such a difference to the meaning of the sentence, as we discovered.

We finished the lesson with a recap - ahead of next week - of Plato's ranking of forms of government, with democracy pretty low down. Do you really believe, as Plato did, that people make stupid decisions when electing their leaders? If so, is there any way we can improve the ways that people make decisions? We'll find out next week...