Over here a mini-controversy on the utility of studying Greek and Latin, sometimes called Classical Studies, or (as I prefer) Classics.
(Image: Cicero orating against Catiline)
My position on that is summed up in the following:
My ideal primary school would have the following four core subjects: Art, Music, Physical Education, Latin and Greek.
Yes, students would take Latin and Greek in kindergarten and they would learn to read English like demons. In fact, they would devour books. Guaranteed.
Middle school would retain the four core subjects. English and history would be combined into one cross-disciplinary class, and math and science would be combined into another single class, and they would be electives.
In the upper school, students could opt for a more conventional subject smorgasbord, including modern foreign language with immersion in target language nations for up to a year.
Post-secondary education would focus on training students in specific skills, except for the next generation of teachers, who would be further educated in a liberal arts and sciences track.
My sense is that education means equipping the brain to think broadly, liberally, humanely, critically, and deeply. Training, by contrast, is equipping a human being to do a specific needed skill.
Therefore, we should have students study at a young age those subjects that form the brain in the most comprehensive way possible. And it has been shown scientifically that the four core subjects of my ideal school are those that do that. Music is probably best in this area, but I think Latin and Greek are a close second.
Once students get older and have an established foundation for critical thinking, they can easily acquire all the skills they need, or study further the subjects that interest them.
So I think Classics is very important to education.
But I am not so thrilled with Classics as a university research subject. Classics is a very old subject and has been studied thoroughly. In the mid- to late-twentieth century there was a flowering of interpretive studies that were the happy result of hundreds of years of painstaking philology-- that is, scholars making sure the surviving manuscripts of ancient texts were as readable as possible.
Nowadays we do not need another book about the Iliad, and we most certainly do not need more books on the less important authors such as Silius Italicus. My sense is that we could do without any more research on Classics for the next 50 years and we would not be the poorer for it.
I would encourage the next generation of Classics Ph.D.'s (of which, I am told, there are too many) not to pursue a tenure-track job (of which, I am told, there are too few) at a college of university. Teach high school, middle school, elementary school Latin and Greek. You will be happy, your students will be happy, and the nation will thank you.