Boston — April 28, 2019 — Two students taking Latin 3 online with Massachusetts-based nonprofit VHS Learning (VHS, Inc.) have placed in the top three in the state for the Classical Association of New England (CANE) Student Writing Contest. Ryan Treadwell won second place for his poem about Nero. Abigail (Abby) Bailey won third place for her essay “Mendax,” which is Latin for “liar.”
The CANE Writing Contest is an annual event open to students taking Latin, Greek, or Classics in New England middle and high schools. VHS Learning is based in Maynard, Massachusetts and students enrolled in online courses through the program are eligible to compete at the Massachusetts state level. Prizes are awarded to top contenders on the state and regional level.
“The CANE Creative Writing Contest is a marvelous opportunity for Latin (and Greek) students to write creatively on a classical topic, chosen annually, and to compete on a regional level,” said Marilee Osier, VHS Learning instructor for Latin and English Language Arts (ELA). “Sometimes it’s a breath of fresh air to take a break from intense translation and write creatively.”
The writing prompt for the 2019-2020 competition was: “There are many other ways that ‘fake news’ could be found in the literature of ancient Greece and Rome. For this paper topic, write a document that identifies the fake news in some ancient Greek or Roman source, and provide your own creative perspective on that. This may take the form of a short story, poem, essay, or dialogue. Your project will be judged holistically, based on how successfully you address the given topic, how well you engage your reader, and how well you write as you present your idea.”
Treadwell based his poem on the Roman emperor Nero who was the focal point of a great deal of fake news regarding the great fire of Rome, which raged for days in July 64. Despite a lack of evidence, different stories claim that Nero ordered the fire so he could rebuild the city to his liking or played the fiddle (which did not exist at the time) while Rome burned. Nero himself accused Christians of being responsible for the conflagration, and on that basis, arrested and executed hundreds of them.
Bailey describes her essay “Mendax” as an “in-depth analysis of the lies and mistruths told by Romans.” The accounts that modern historians have of events and famous personages come from Roman historians who were often not neutral.
“I worked really hard on the essay and was really happy with how it turned out,” said Bailey. She also shared a little about what led her to study Latin. “I’m interested in word origins and it seemed a like a lot of fun.”
“I am so proud of these students who have not only demonstrated passion for the Classics and thorough research efforts but also gifted talents beyond their love of Latin translation,” Osier said. “The online student certainly can easily excel at a regional or national level!”
About VHS Learning
VHS Learning is a nonprofit organization with more than 24 years of experience providing world-class online programs to students and schools everywhere. Offering more than 220 unique online courses, including 24 AP® courses, credit recovery and enrichment courses, and a selection of dual-credit options, VHS Learning is accredited by Middle States Association Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS), Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC), and Cognia. Courses are approved for initial eligibility by NCAA. For more information about VHS Learning please visit https://www.vhslearning.org/ and follow on Twitter at @VHSLearning.
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