Anika Prather argues for the classical curriculum.
“Above the Veil: A Conversation with Anika Prather,” John Baskin, The Point, September 27, 2021.
In this fascinating interview, Prather explains her commitment, as a Black educator, to studying the classics of ancient literature. She is the founder of Living Water School in southern Maryland, a Christian classical school, and is both trained in and has taught the classics at Howard University.
She argues that the classics curriculum can be a source of positive formation for Black students, and points to the examples of Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Frank Snowden, and others as Black leaders who benefited greatly from their study in the classics curriculum.
She cites the many admiring references in the classics to peoples of color, and she insists that the entire curriculum speaks to issues that are germane and relevant not only to White students but to people of all ethnic backgrounds. Studying the classics unites us as human beings, she explains. As part of her teaching of the classics at Howard, she says, “At the beginning of the class, I ask a question: Why are you taking this class? There’s always, ‘Well it’s for my GE courses, to fulfill my GE courses.’ And then another question I’ll ask is, What has your experience been with classical studies? ‘It’s racist, it’s white-supremacist.’ ‘I never saw myself.’ Those were always the answers, never a connection. And I don’t argue with them on that. I say, I want to ask this question again when we’re done, and I’d love to see what you say. And we always go through this transformation, where they come to see it as, ‘This is mine.’”
As a Christian educator, Prather encourages us to see the way a grasp of the classics can help us to appreciate such values as diversity, human greatness, honor, respect, and love. Hers is a strong voice in calling us back to these pedagogical roots.