A critique of the Classics

Image: kytalpa / Pixabay

In Ancient Rome, scholarship was written in Ancient Greek. In fact, the Romans had a bit of an admiration for the Greeks and their philosophy, and thoroughly enjoyed studying the works of Plato and Aristotle. But this was not an experience shared by all Romans. In fact, it was very much a case that only the rich in Roman society could possibly burden the expense of a pricey Greek education. This is an inequality we can make comparisons with in today’s society.

Think about it, what kind of people stereotypicaly study Classics at university? A private-schooled student perhaps, with access to Latin and Ancient Greek options at GCSE and A- Level? That person in your class at senior school that absolutely adored the works of Ovid? In my case, these scenarios did not apply to me, yet here I am studying Classics at university.

I was not prepared for the huge linguistic elements needed to study the discipline…

I did not study Latin or Classics A level, it was not even an option for me at school. In fact, only a small number of state schools offer Classical subjects to their students. I didn’t learn a word of Latin until my first year at university, where I was thrust into a classroom with a load of other students that had studied it for years.

After missing my offer to study History at Warwick, the clearing place I had been offered for Ancient History did not seem a million miles away from what I wanted to study, so I wondered how different could it be? Answer: it was very different.

I have never heard of anyone from my school going to study Classics at degree level…

I was not prepared for the huge linguistic elements needed to study the discipline, and I knew of no Greek gods except Zeus. I had never heard of anyone from my school going to study Classics at degree level. Yet here I am, two years later, studying for a degree that, quite honestly, I had never heard of before.

Now, I completely adore my subject. The ancient world is fascinating, and I only discovered it by chance. I want to see the Classics have a stronger presence in mainstream state education. I want Latin to be taught in all schools, not just selective and private ones, and I want children to learn about the beginnings of civilisation.

I do not resent my state-school education in the slightest, nor do I feel angered towards my Classics friends who did attend a private school. This is not me complaining about inequality in schooling, I am merely trying to raise awareness of boosting Classics as a subject choice in mainstream schools.

In a strange way, I was insanely lucky to have missed my offer for History at Warwick. The Greeks are groovy, and I am fortunate enough to be a state-educated student studying them at University.

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Why I chose to study History

Studying an arts degree seems pretty pointless to a lot of people. I go to the University of Warwick, a top-10 UK institution. The university is renowned worldwide for its success in getting students to into the Finance sector. Warwick Business School is incredibly competitive to get into, and our Economics course requires A*AA at A level.

Riding on the coattails of the University’s financial reputation are us arts students. Although it is still very hard to get into Warwick for arts subjects, for some reason we are bottom of the pecking order. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these two pictures:

 

Image result for warwick humanities building  Here is the Humanities building.

And here is ONE of the WBS buildings.  Image result for warwick business school

So why would anybody in their right mind pick to study a Humanities subject? I got the grades to get into the Business School. I could have studied Law. I could have studied Economics. But I chose History.

 

History is a diverse and wonderful subject, that I feel a lot of people do not embrace. It’s like tabloid trash, but from the past. I can read about the scandal of Ancient Greece, the affairs of Henry VIII. As a historian, you are literally valued on your ability to cast judgement on somebody’s action. Everything in History is about what YOU think.

And the great thing is, studying History at degree level means a load of lecturers and peers also want to hear about what YOU think.

I think arts subjects get a bad rep. Humanities degrees produce well-rounded thinkers, with the ability to reason and come to balanced conclusions. We study data, evidence, testimonies. We evaluate, we aim to find solutions. And, get this, the world is our oyster.

I don’t really know what I want to do when I leave university. I’ve decided to leave it as an open book. But the good thing is, with my degree, there is no expectation. I’m not expected to be a banker, a lawyer or a doctor. I have options and flexibility, and I think that is one of the best things about my subject. I’m not pigeonholed, and have plenty of time to think about the future. Mainly because I only have eight contact hours a week 😉