In Search of Good High School Essays

John Byron Kuhner |

In Medias Res Looks to Publish Student Work in Classics.

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Vergil, from the Vergilius Romanus, a 1600-year-old Vergil text.

One of the things that encourages me is simply knowing that something good is going on, somewhere: that learning is happening, that people are taking joy in books and places and art. I recently visited New York City, and I can report that the city seems to be its old self again. I went to an event for Phillip James Dodd’s remarkably gorgeous book on Beaux-Arts architecture in New York; the restaurants and Central Park were packed; the Metropolitan Museum of Art was as full of life as ever, and while I didn’t particularly love the Chroma show, I was happy to see the smiling faces in the galleries. People are learning and enjoying, I thought. They are talking and thinking and reacting. This makes me happy.

Sometimes an essay has the same effect on me. Tommy Nolan’s recent piece comparing the Pilgrims of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the Trojans landing in Italy was one such. In Medias Res did not commission this article; Tommy Nolan, a student at Regis High School in New York City, wrote it as a classroom assignment. In other words, it was just part of the normal functioning of school life: teachers teaching, students learning. I would never have seen it had I not been speaking with Tommy’s teacher, Mr. David Bonagura, about publishing student essays about the Classics.

And so we present Mr. Nolan’s essay here, not only as an interesting Thanksgiving meditation on the role that a belief in Fate can play in one’s own personal confidence, but as what we hope will be the first of a kind of program here at In Medias Res. We would like to publish, perhaps once a quarter, an excellent student essay in Classics written for a high school class. Submissions should come through teachers, who can verify that the essay represents the students’ work. Publication would be an honor for the student, and a sign of the quality of the teacher’s program; and for other teachers who read the essay, we hope that it may be an imitable example of an assignment that inspired excellent work. For the most part, we imagine that such essays will be written in history classes, on topics of ancient history; or in literature classes, when students might read the Odyssey or Antigone, or in art history classes; but AP Latin classes obviously produce such essays as well. Submissions can be sent to [email protected]

There have been many dispiriting events, in the world generally and in the world of Classics in particular, in the past few years. I have seen many good programs close down. It is good to remember that the world goes on; that students are still confronting the lessons of history, as deeply as you or I can (perhaps more deeply); that we stand not at all at the end of a tradition, but in the middle of it. Many good things lie behind us, but also much good lies ahead. And many wonderful things are happening right now, far from our sight, in classrooms and in students’ minds all over the world.

John Byron Kuhner

John Byron Kuhner is Editor of In Medias Res. Formerly president of SALVI, he is currently writing a biography of Fr. Reginald Foster, O.C.D. He lives in Steubenville, Ohio.

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