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Features Commonly Found in Undergraduate Programs in Classics

The following statement was prepared by the SCS's Classics Advisory Service in response to the experience of some APA members that administrators had little or no understanding of the field of Classics or of the contributions that a Classics program could make to their institutions. It was suggested that some relevant guidelines would be helpful for Classicists at such institutions who were trying to establish or expand a program or to defend an establish program.

The statement therefore provides a description of features commonly found in undergraduate Classics programs in the US and Canada. It is directed primarily to institutions that do not have graduate programs in Classics and who serve a broad range of students, ranging from those taking basic courses to fulfill a requirement to full Classics majors and minors. Although the features mentioned below are common to many Classics programs, this document does not, and could not, cover the full range of courses and activities offered by our many different Classics programs. Nor is this document intended to prescribe any single format or set of rules. The exceptional diversity of American institutions of higher education means that Classics programs will necessarily take different forms in different institutions, and very small programs naturally cannot provide the full range of offerings envisioned below. Nevertheless, the following features are common to many Classics programs.

I. General features:

Classical civilization has been and continues to be broadly influential in American and Western culture. The study of Classics (understood as Greek and Latin languages, literature, and civilization) thus provides a firm foundation for the study of the liberal arts and should be part of every student'sgeneral education. The classical languages, moreover, especially Latin, played a fundamental role in shaping the English language, and they should be available to students who wish to deepen their understanding of our language and further their knowledge of classical culture. Students are attracted to Classics for many different reasons, among which are a sense that they should know something about the background of their culture, a specific desire to read classical works as diverse as Homer, the New Testament, Cicero, and Vergil in the original language, and an intrinsic interest in the classical languages, literature, and culture.

The aims of undergraduate programs in Classics generally include the following:

  • To provide all students, regardless of their field of study, with a basic knowledge of Greek and Roman civilizations and their Mediterranean context.
  • To give students a deeper knowledge of ancient languages and civilization in preparation for a wide range of careers, as well as for their own benefit and enjoyment.
  • To prepare students for careers teaching Latin and Greek in the primary and secondary schools.
  • To prepare students for graduate work in Classics and careers in teaching and research in colleges and universities.

II. More specifically:

  • Although good high schools often teach some classical culture in courses such as English or Mythology, many students arrive at college with little or no knowledge of their Classical heritage. A primary purpose of Classics programs is to make available to all students general courses in classical culture, including literature, history, art and archaeology, philosophy, and other subjects. The broad range of Classics as an area studies makes it well suited for cooperative work with many other fields in addition to these -- drama, economics, medicine, law, and music, to name just a few. By engaging in this sort of internal "outreach," together with a broad range of teaching in Classical Civilization, strong Classics programs play a central role in the educational mission of many colleges and universities.
  • Students with a strong Classics background are especially attractive to future employers, to professional schools and to graduate programs in other disciplines. Classics as an undergraduate major or minor (in Greek, Latin, Greek and Latin, or Classical Civilization) provides a solid educational foundation for students aiming at careers in business, law, medicine, and other fields, and Classics can also be important, and sometimes indispensable, for students who are intending further study in literature, philosophy, linguistics, divinity, and the like. Thus, students often combine a Classics major or minor with another academic major, such as political science, biochemistry, or philosophy; the possibilities are virtually unlimited.

    A major in one or both classical languages generally requires at least three years of study in one language (four is preferable) and some additional course work in classical civilization. A minor in a language generally requires at least two years of the language. In some institutions a major in classical civilization does not require the study of a classical language, but it is more common (and preferable) that a major in classical civilization include at least some work in one classical language, preferably at least two years.

  • The total number of students taking Latin in high school has been increasing for several years now. In some areas this has led to a shortage of qualified Latin teachers for both public and private high schools. Classics programs, especially those located in states or regions where there is a shortage of teachers, generally feel an obligation to provide solid training for future teachers. This training should include at least four years of Latin and several additional courses in ancient, especially Roman, civilization. In addition, students usually can take courses in education, child development, etc. that they may need for teacher certification.
  • A relatively small number of students will want to pursue graduate work and a professional career in Classics, but those who do should have a solid major in Classics that will include, if possible, at least four years of one classical language and three years of the other, and as much work as possible related areas such as in ancient history, archaeology, and ancient philosophy. Students with less preparation than this can still plan for graduate school but may want to consider spending a year or two in a good MA or post-baccalaureate program first.

Adopted by the APA Board of Directors October 16, 1999

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