Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Day 82 - Latin Club Hosts Live Skype Chat with Roman Historian Mary Beard

Before the December vacation, the BHS Latin Club hosted a live Skype chat with world famous Roman historian and public speaker Dr. Mary Beard of the University of Cambridge, England. The idea was first conceived of by Junior Aashay Madhani after students watched and reflected upon several episodes of Dr. Beard’s critically acclaimed documentary series “Meet the Romans.” The hour-long films, which endeavor to look at the Romans from a different point of view by focusing on what we can learn about everyday Romans, rather than the traditional cynosures of the Roman world such as Julius Caesar and Nero, particularly resonated with many BHS Latin students.
The documentaries inspired several students to tweet at Dr. Beard to express their admiration and when she responded positively, Aashay approached her with the idea of a live chat on Skype. Although hesitant at first since she is a self-proclaimed technophobe, Dr. Beard ultimately agreed to a 15-minute casual afterschool chat. Latin students of all grades were then encouraged to write questions in anticipation of the conversation, asking everything from Dr. Beard’s life and career as a classicist to her personal favorite works of Roman literature and her private hobbies.
On the afternoon of the chat, nearly 40 BHS students (including even some students who don’t even study Latin!) gathered in the Science Lecture Hall for the opportunity to talk directly to a leading person in the field of Classics. Dr. Beard was warm and friendly and addressed the students by name as she patiently answered their questions. A particular highlight included when Junior Aysha Afzal’s asked Dr. Beard about the biggest challenges she has had to overcome. Mary responded, addressing Aysha and especially all the girls in the audience that, when it came to making her now-famous documentaries, she was at first repeatedly rebuffed by BBC executives who told her that they would rather have a man or a younger, pretty woman present her research. Although she eventually succeeded in getting her documentaries made, the fact that she had to fight to present her own work draws attention to the sexism that is still very prominent, especially in the world of television, even for historical documentaries.
Overall, the event was a great success as Dr. Beard spoke to us for over 20 minutes and was just as personable and delightful as she is in her documentaries. Mr. Stringer, BHS and the BHS Latin Club are incredibly grateful to Mary Beard for taking some time out of her very busy schedule to talk to us and we look forward to her upcoming documentaries as she continues to inspire students and teachers the world over! 
You can watch the full interview below:

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