Hesiod, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Homer – do any of these names ring a bell? You’ve probably heard of them in passing, but have you ever really read them? Have you sat down with the Odyssey and tried to deconstruct Homer’s epic poem of a man who embarked on a long and torturous journey to make his way home?
If you were a college student half a century ago, without a doubt you would have read all of the great Greek authors. Courses in Classics were a staple in virtually every college and pre-college student’s academic career – it was even the most popular major. You simply wouldn’t grow up to be an educated, well-rounded individual if you didn’t at least study Latin. These days the classics major has become significantly less popular. What happened?
One theory about the disappearance of Classics can be summed up in a single word – Sputnik. In 1957, the Russians launched their space rocket Sputnik, which caused huge turmoil for the Americans. It prompted a large reconsideration of how people approached education. People thought that since the Russians had a satellite in orbit first, we needed to place a greater emphasis on teaching science and math so that we could catch up to them. So basically, because of Sputnik, teaching Classics was put on the back burner. America wanted to breed scientists and mathematicians so that we didn’t lose to the Russians again. Therefore, there was a philosophical shift in education, and funds for teaching Classics began to dwindle.
Although it may not seem obvious, a Classics degree can provide a student with a broad understanding of politics, law, economics and history, subjects that can be applied to graduate school in any discipline. As the Princeton Review explains, “according to Association of American Medical Colleges, students who major or double-major in Classics have a better success rate getting into medical school than do students who concentrate solely in biology, microbiology and other branches of science.” Classics and math majors have the highest success rates of any majors in law school. Classics majors consistently have some of the highest scores on GREs of all undergraduates, beating out political science, economics and pre-law majors.
With all of these obvious advantages to majoring in Classics, all students at some point in their college careers should take a course in which they can discuss Aphrodite the goddess of love, read from Hesiod about how all of the Greek gods came to be, or learn Latin or Greek, languages mostly responsible for the study of semantics. Even if your dream in life is to become a doctor and find the cure for cancer, Classics may be more beneficial for you than you think.