In this last of my presidential letters, I take the opportunity to inform you of a new SCS initiative to establish a wider audience for classics. At last year’s Presidential Panel, Robert Connor made an impassioned plea for our Society to undertake the expansion of classics in institutions of higher learning. While Departments of Classics appear to be holding their own across the country, it is evident that the emphasis on STEM disciplines and support for interdisciplinary education at the expense of traditional departments provide challenges to classics education as we know it. The changing landscape of twenty-first century education can, however, also provide opportunities for broadening education in classics, if we think creatively.
Our organization has long responded to threats to Departments of Classics or to policies challenging the intellectual integrity of our discipline. As we take on an expanded role to serve as a public voice for classics, it is our responsibility to become more proactive in our approach to preserving the teaching of classical subjects. In order to do that, I have formed the Expanding College Classics Opportunities (ECCO) Committee to explore methods of supporting and, especially, extending the study of classics in institutions of higher learning. Georgia Nugent, Emerita President of Kenyon College, has agreed to chair this committee, which will have its inaugural meeting in New Orleans.
The committee’s goal will be to increase instruction of classics at the post-secondary level. Its objectives will be to expand traditional departmental structures for classics instruction, to extend classics into the other areas of the curriculum, and to foster the teaching of classics in various kinds of institutions, especially those now lacking such instruction. The committee will begin by considering a wide range of means to fulfill these objectives. Ideas that have been advanced include advocating for expansion of classics into community colleges, historically black colleges and universities, or the many other institutions that do not currently offer the study of classics; promoting the formation of new majors and minors (or other curricular structures such as certificates) in classics; creating or facilitating new forms of instruction such as MOOCs; and commissioning print modules on classical subjects for use in humanities courses. The ECCO Committee will be instrumental in developing a discourse for explaining the public value of classics in both national and international arenas of endeavor. In other words, the initial agenda for the committee is broadly conceived in order to encourage creativity, but with an understanding that the committee will also need to narrow its choices in order to accomplish specific goals.
If the committee meets with success over time, it will be because a significant number of members stepped forward to help. I invite you to contribute to the process now, by sending your ideas and suggestions for the committee to consider. Do you teach classics in a non-traditional way? Do you teach classics in a community college or an institution without a classics department or major? Have you had experience expanding classics offerings in your institution or contributing classics components to interdisciplinary courses? If so, you may be a valuable resource for the committee. What advice do you have, or what resources do you need? The public voice of the SCS is something to which all members can contribute. My address is email@example.com, and I look forward to hearing from you.