Thursday, June 21, 2012
That's Ancient History
The recent news that the University of Virginia Board of Visitors wanted to get rid of what they considered “underperforming” departments, such as Classics, Philosophy and German has made this former Classics Major most distressed. If teaching the basics of the foundation of Western Civilization isn’t good enough, the exquisite irony of deleting Classics and Philosophy at Thomas Jefferson’s University should have made Helen Dragas think twice, ( Oh wait, she was a MBA student. Irony is wasted on those people.) As a former Classics and Ancient History Major (University of California, class of 1980) I will list just a few of the many advantages of learning the Classics 1. learning critical thinking skills from the guys who invented critical thinking (Plato, Socrates, Aristophanes, Euripides, to name but a few) 2. Studying the Peloponnesian War helps one understand the reasons countries go to war (they study this at West Point for just that reason) 3. Learning what “crossing the Rubicon” really means 4. Learn why NIKE is not just a brand of shoes 5. The Olympics and why they were important, then and now 6. the invention of Rhetoric 7. Marathon 8. with your shield or on it 9. Thermopylae 10. The Iliad, the Aeniad, The Odyssey 11. The invention of democracy 12. Euclidean Geometry Other good reasons: classics majors are really good at trivia, spelling and lifelines for bar-betting buddies. We know why Virgil went to hell, and why Dante used Virgil as his guide. We know all of the things that were inaccurate in the movies Gladiator, Troy and The 300. We know where Athens, Troy, Persepolis and Syracuse are on maps both ancient and modern. We know that basil comes from the ancient Greek word for King. We know about the real Oedipus Complex. Are we going to be a country that can’t have nice things, like real Universities? We are the richest, most powerful nation on Earth;. Must everything be ruled by the small-minded bean-counter types? We would have plenty of money for worthy endeavors if we use it wisely. They would do well to remember that even though Sparta won the war with Athens, they lost the bigger battle. Oh wait, those bean-counter types won’t understand. They haven’t studied Thucydides. They think the Spartans are a football team.