Scholia Reviews ns 16 (2007) 14.

Stefan Kipf, Altsprachlicher Unterricht in der Bundesrepublic Deutschland: historisches Entwicklung, didaktische Konzepte und methodische Grundfragen von der Nachkriegzeit bis zum Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts. Bamberg: C. C. Buchner, 2006. Pp. 512. ISBN 3-7661-5678-5. Euro31.80.

Bernhard Kytzler
Foreign Languages, University of KwaZulu-Natal

In August last year a brilliant book appeared in Bamberg, Germany. It presents a profound analysis of a wide field of learning. Stefan Kipf, recently called to Berlin's Humboldt University as professor of education, offers a precise and penetrating description of three aspects of the teaching of classical languages at the high schools of the German Federal Republic: its historical development, didactic concepts, and basic methodological questions. The period he discusses is the time from the end of World War II until the end of the last century. Evidently, this is not so much a guide to school organisation and teaching techniques as an introduction into the state of the art or better, of humanism! -- in central Europe.

The work is divided chronologically into two halves: first, the years from the end of the war to the end of the Sixties, and then the rest of the twentieth century. Kipf uses a vast range of material: not only learned publications in print (the fourteen most important of them are enumerated on page 13) but also statistical overviews, organisational plans by schools and by ministries of education, schoolbooks, and school reports.

The book has three main goals: to give a full picture of the dominant tendencies in the teaching of Classics in the Federal Republic of Germany, to raise the level of awareness so as to prepare a broader basis for further programmatic discussions, and to provide an orientation for teacher training, especially to enrich the understanding of problems and developments among the ranks of younger teachers.

The presentation is well organised: both halves culminate in a concise summary (pp. 170-74; 441-48); the whole book has an intelligent finale (Schlußbetrachtung, pp. 449-55); an extensive bibliography {pp. 456-99) provides ample documentation and a guide to reading; and, finally, a general index (pp. 500-6) and an index of names (pp. 507-12) round out the work.

Kipf has some astonishing statistics: in the year 1958 in Bavaria alone no less than 48,324 pupils learned Latin and 16,539 Greek (p. 21), whereas only 11,612 took French and only 36,022 English. This is, however, half a century ago, and the present situation appears entirely different. Today, Werner Jaeger's 'Third Humanism' has been left behind; the picture of classical antiquity is mostly based on Uvo Hölscher's understanding of it as Das nachste Fremde (= 'the closest foreign thing'). The traditional canon of texts to be studied is more or less still in use; the well-known central authors, such as Caesar, Cicero, Pliny; Ovid, Phaedrus, Martial, have neither lost their position nor their importance. However, there is much more emphasis on Classical Culture than before, and translation is no longer the only activity in the classroom. There was a dramatic decline in numbers in Greek and Latin teaching (= 'ein dramatischer Ruckgang der Schlerzahlen im Latein- and Griechischunterricht') at the end of the Sixties (p. 452).

On the other hand, as a key factor in the European tradition, school Latin began to include texts from late antiquity, medieval and renaissance authors, and more modern latin writers. In 2000 the overall number of Latin learners stood at 600,000 (p. 222). Latin takes third place in the league of foreign languages studed in schools with 25.8%, after English (more than 90%), French (43%), but before Spanish (3.9%), Russian (3.4%) and Italian (1.1%).

Less favourable is the situation with regard to Greek. In 2000 only 11,852 students took this language -- only 0.52% (p. 224). Kipf summarizes: Since the Seventies, Greek lost its leading role in classical languages for good (p. 453).

While Kipf concentrates his research on the Federal Republic of Germany, he is nonetheless able to provide some comparative material from the former DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik or German Democratic Republik). For this, he mainly draws on the dissertation of Manfred Bauder, Der Lateinunterricht in der DDR (Berlin 1998). Taken together, these books provide a complete picture of the situation in relation to the teaching of Classics in the heart of Europe.