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Are We Rome?

Duffy Smiley
If you keep track of the mainstream media these days, you may feel like the sky is falling. Some are even making alarmist comparisons between modern American society and the fall of Rome. As a classics scholar, Derryfield Latin teacher Mike Leary took an interest in this comparison, most popularly introduced in Cullen Murphy’s 2007 book, Are We Rome? Rather than accepting media sensationalism, Mr. Leary was inspired by his 2016 summer reading selection to create a history class that takes a deeper look at the comparisons between the two cultures.

When he was approached by administration about the prospect of teaching an online class as part of Derryfield’s collaboration with the Malone Schools Online Network (MSON), this topic seemed like a perfect fit. Like other MSON class offerings, including Arabic, Multivariable Calculus, Medical Bioethics, and Forensic Science, it was a subject he couldn’t find anywhere else as an offering for high school students.

Mr. Leary found the book had very interesting points about the similarities between the Roman Empire and the United States beyond what people normally think. He is using the book as a starting point for the class, which “examines, among other things, political and social ideologies, privatization, globalization, borders, and exceptionalism.” He says, discussions will be centered around primary sources from both Rome and the United States. The course is structured around one basic question: How can the United States, having used Rome as an example for itself, learn from Rome?

For the eleven students signed up for the class, five of whom attend other MSON partner schools from across the country, Mr. Leary thinks this will be a fun course, designed around discussion. A previous US History class is required to sign up, and Mr. Leary expects his students to bring their knowledge of US History into this class. He enjoyed doing the research to deepen his knowledge of US History, which led to the discovery of different texts that will be used in the course. While Mr. Leary plans to use his expertise in the Latin language when it enriches the discussion, a working knowledge of the language is not required. The bulk of the course will be outside research and reading, with students logging in to the bi-weekly class meeting ready for directed discussion. While Mr. Leary was nervous about teaching an online class for the first time, he realizes that his plans for how the class should proceed will change with the interests of the students to some degree.

Are We Rome? is just one of several online classes offered by Derryfield faculty and others from 22 schools around the country. At Derryfield, interest in taking MSON classes has expanded considerably since the program began. You can explore the 2017-2018 MSON course listings here.

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