It is unclear how long we will be able to treat the term Classical Studies as largely synonymous with the study of Greco-Roman culture -- this usage reflects assumptions of European cultural hegemony that few students of Greco-Roman culture still share and fewer still would publicly defend. Certainly students of Greco-Roman culture in the United States and Europe have various pragmatic reasons, political and economic alike, to recognize the importance of Classical Arabic, Chinese, Sanskrit, Persian and other cultural languages from beyond Europe. If current population trends continue, immigration will drive US population growth from its current 324 million to 441 million in 2065 and there will no longer be any majority ethnic group (at least by the categories in use today). In this model, immigration from Asia (which includes the Indian subcontinent as well as nations such as China and Korea) will become the largest source of new population and the American population. These trends may seem abstract to those of us at a later stage of our career but the undergraduates of 2016 who wish to become professional students of Greco-Roman culture should think seriously now about how they understand Classical studies.
US postsecondary education is not currently structured to support a 21st century model of Classical Studies. Analysis of statistics from the Modern Language Association reveals that Pre-modern Greek and Latin account for more than 75% of all reported US enrollments in historical languages -- Greek, Latin, and Biblical Hebrew together account for more than 95%. Every Classics Department will not be able to support full-time faculty in a dozen different Classical languages, but any student in a 21st century Department of Classics should have the opportunity to study Classical languages other than Greek and Latin.
To solve the organizational and logistical challenges, we must turn to the same digital technologies that have helped make possible the creation of a networked world. This implies changing the way we organize our departments and our teaching and, of course, how we design (or, perhaps more properly, re-design) our PhD programs. We need to learn how to draw upon every useful new method available to us, which in turn implies that we need to be able to assess new methods and then adapt those methods to Classical languages ourselves. This will surely change our field profoundly but the opportunities are at least as great as the challenges.
Digital Classics and the Changing Profession