President's Letter for March 2013: STEM Subjects Are Not the Only Essential Ones

There has been a lot of talk in the US recently about the importance of encouraging the study of the so-called STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).  In the UK, the civil service has long been advocating such an emphasis on STEM, although it is revealing that in the US people still tend to focus on whether this or that education is a good “investment” for the individual, whereas in Britain the government agencies are more concerned with which education is best for society as a whole (on “investment” as the wrong metaphor in the first place, see Bob Connor’s recent post).

In response to this new wave of pressure, there have been a number of excellent defenses of the value of studying non-STEM subjects, and I do not want to rehearse that case here; let me just refer you to the fine column in the Washington Post by Danielle Allen, for example, and to the new AHA website I recently recommended on making the case for the value of the Humanities and Social Sciences.  But I just want to comment on the background of the lawmakers who are the most recent ones to advocate strongly for specific practical steps to foster STEM.

The Economist recently had a leader on US immigration reform, in which they applauded in particular an initiative from a bipartisan group of eight Senators which would allow foreign nationals who go to US universities to remain in the country after graduation: “They would…give an automatic green card to anyone gaining a master’s degree or a doctorate in science, technology, engineering or maths from an American university” (February 2nd, 2013, p.10).

This is a very controversial proposal in various ways, as is a similar proposal to give six-year visas to up to 300,000 foreign high-tech workers a year (see the New York TimesOp Ed piece on this subject last month by Ross Eisenbrey).  But it’s interesting that no one appears to be advocating giving an automatic green card to anyone gaining an advanced degree in the humanities or social sciences, although even at a crassly utilitarian level it might look like a good idea to increase the number of US residents who, for example, have an intimate knowledge of other languages and cultures.  I’m not necessarily arguing for such a green card policy myself, but the assumption that it is self-evidently “useful” to foster certain subjects and not others is worth pushing back against before it becomes completely automatic.

If you look at the educational background of the eight Senators, it’s even more interesting that they appear not to see value in retaining as a member of US society someone with a degree in humanities or social sciences.  Only one of the group (Lindsey Graham, R-SC) has an undergraduate major in a science subject (Psychology).  The others have undergraduate degrees in History (Michael Bennet, D-CO); International Relations (Dick Durbin, D-IL; Jeff Flake, R-AZ; Marco Rubio, R-FL); Political Science (Bob Menendez, D-NJ); and Government (Chuck Schumer, D-NY).  John McCain (R-AZ) attended the Naval Academy at Annapolis, and so wasn’t in the business of choosing majors, but he preferred literary and historical subjects, reporting in his 1999 memoir Faith of My Fathers: “Unfortunately, the curriculum at the Academy was weighted preponderantly toward math and the sciences” (p.134).

In their choices of major, these Senators are fairly representative of their colleagues in Congress.  In the 112th Congress, apart from the 26 Members of the House and the single Senator who had no more than a high school diploma, government and the humanities accounted for 55.7% of the undergraduate majors; 13.7% had degrees in Business and Accounting, with 8.4% in Economics.  24 members had a medical degree.  Only 11.5% of the members of the 112th Congress had an undergraduate major in Science and Technology (for these figures, see Mark J. Perry’s post).

I can’t help wondering if Messrs. Bennet, Durbin, Flake, Menendez, Rubio and Schumer actually believe that the subjects they majored in are useless and that their undergraduate education did not provide them with skills and perspectives that the country has benefitted from. 

Let me be clear: I am enthusiastically in favor of the study of STEM subjects, not least because I believe that science and mathematics are a vital part of a liberal arts education.  I’d be very happy to see more highly trained scientists and engineers in government (it may seem redundant to state this, but one can be easily misunderstood in these debates).  But the value of a general education in the liberal arts, including science, mathematics, the humanities and social sciences, is something we must keep affirming in the face of the consensus one can sense developing. 

I would like to imagine the day when a President gives a State of the Union address to Congress in which he or she quotes the wisdom of George Washington in the first ever State of the Union address, on January 8, 1790: “Nor am I less persuaded, that you will agree with me in opinion, that there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature.  Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of publick happiness.”  Even if we update the spelling and take away the Gothic “k” from “publick”, it is hard to imagine a President today writing those words, with their firm understanding of the value of the whole domain of knowledge.

Denis Feeney
President

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Phoenicians, Philistines, and Canaanites: The Levant and the Classical World (Villa)
2020/2021

The Getty Scholars Program at the Villa for the 2020/2021 term will focus on the ancient cultures of the Levant and their relations with the classical world. Lying on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean, the Levant was a crucial crossroads between the classical world of Greece and Rome and the kingdoms of the Near East. Home to the ancient peoples of Phoenicia, Ugarit, Canaan, Philistia, Jordan, Israel, and Judah, this region participated in a vibrant Bronze-Age network of trade that flourished for many centuries until a combination of warfare, migration and famine around 1200 BCE destroyed these palace societies.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 07/17/2019 - 9:38am by Erik Shell.

Central: February 26-29, 2020, Palmer House Hilton Chicago

Pacific: April 8-11, 2020, Westin St Francis, San Francisco
 

This is a call for submissions of papers to be presented to the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy.

The Deadline for Submission of papers is August 1.

a) To have your paper considered, you need to be a member of the Society for 2019/20 - a form is attached, and it needs to come back via regular mail, not as an attachment!

b) You should submit your paper as an attachment to an email addressed to apreus@binghamton.edu. Your email message is your cover letter; it should include your name, address, academic affiliation (as of 2019/20), and the title of the paper. Note if you would prefer the Central or Pacific Division, or either! The paper itself should be prepared for blind (anonymous) review, and IT MUST BE IN DOC, DOCX, OR RTF FORMAT! NOT PDF! Papers may include "real Greek" if it is in a Unicode font.

The Program Committee has decided that authors who had a paper accepted by the Society for presentation at a meeting of the American Philosophical Association or the Society for Classical Studies during the past year should not be considered.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 07/17/2019 - 9:25am by Erik Shell.
Yearly maintenance on the Placement Service is now complete. There will be a Newsletter later this month detailing the final jobs report and the changes made to the service over these past two weeks.
 
Anyone hoping to receive job announcements and other benefits of the AIA/SCS Placement Service will need to sign up for this new academic year. Here is a tutorial on how to do so: https://youtu.be/zr7gTIUdqiQ. The price will remain free for AIA and SCS members, and will continue to be $55 for non-members.
 
We are also excited to announce our newest publication: "Careers for Classicists: Graduate Student Edition." Building on the last version, which was published in 2012, this guide provides updated, modernized, and detailed advice for graduate students seeking jobs both inside and outside the classroom.
 
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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 07/16/2019 - 10:53am by Erik Shell.

Learn about our affiliated groups, old and new!

In June the SCS Program Committee chartered three groups that are already doing great work. SCS is delighted to welcome them as affiliates:

Look out for their events at the 2020 Annual Meeting.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 07/12/2019 - 2:58pm by Helen Cullyer.

Upon a recommendation by the Society for Classical Studies, FIEC has approved a statement on the format of abstracts and keywords for the submission of articles

FIEC STATEMENT

L’Année Philologique is the main database for publications in Classical studies. In the interest of all scholars, authors and researchers, it seems important to define some basic requirements that will make it easier for the local branches of L’Année Philologique to analyze the entries. The following is a recommendation made to all associations of Classical studies affiliated to FIEC. Associations are kindly asked to circulate this statement among their members. In view of the ever-growing number of articles and chapters in collective volumes processed for registration by L’Année Philologique, and in order to reduce the amount of work required of the various branches of L’Année Philologique, it is recommended that journal and volume editors regard it as a best practice of the efficient analysis of the data that each article or chapter be accompanied by a brief abstract and a list of keywords. To ensure the utility of abstracts and keywords for the efficient analysis of data for L’Année Philologique, please take note of the following guidelines:

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 07/12/2019 - 2:47pm by Helen Cullyer.

The new Classics Everywhere initiative, launched by the SCS in 2019, supports projects that seek to engage communities all over the US and Canada with the worlds of Greek and Roman antiquity in new and meaningful ways. As part of this initiative the SCS has been funding a variety of projects ranging from children’s programs to teaching Latin in a prison. In this post we focus on two programs that bring the study of Greek and Roman antiquity to two traditionally underserved communities: incarcerated students in a correctional facility and the racially, ethnically, and economically diverse community in Winnipeg, Canada.

There is a pressing need to make Classics more open and inclusive, and to diversify the voices dominating the study of Greek and Roman antiquity. A growing number of classicists are rethinking the field's often unspoken assumptions, exploring the ways in which contemporary scholarship may be affirming or challenging existing social structures, and reaching out to more diverse audiences, to encourage new responses and perspectives. 

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 07/10/2019 - 4:20pm by Nina Papathanasopoulou.

Classical Studies in the 21st Century: More Relevant Than Ever

The AIA-SCS joint ad hoc committee on the future of classics and archaeology met earlier this year to discuss pressures common to both fields. The group agreed to create a document that can be used to remind college and university administrators of what we do and our relevance. The joint statement entitled “Classical Studies in the 21st Century: More Relevant Than Ever,” is below and also available as a PDF download. Department chairs and other departmental members are welcome to use it as talking points with decision-makers at your institutions, be they chairs, deans, provosts, chancellors and some other administrator, as a reminder of the continuing and important benefits of our fields. You may use the entire statement or customize it to meet the specific needs of your department and profile of your institution. We realize that there are many successful advocacy strategies, and we hope this brief statement will join them. If you have already successfully advocated to preserve or expand your department, let us know what worked.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 07/10/2019 - 11:46am by Helen Cullyer.

FIEC resolution towards supporting the registration of Ancient Greek and Latin in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage

(approved by the FIEC General Assembly of Delegates, London July 4th, 2019)

The International Federation of Associations of Classical Studies (FIEC) supports the registration of Ancient Greek and Latin in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Those two languages have had a deep impact on the Mediterranean area (in a wide sense) over several millenia; this impact is still to be felt very strongly today, not only in that area, but also in the world at large.

Ancient Greek was the main language spoken and written in Archaic and Classical Greece, as well as in the whole Eastern Mediterranean from the Hellenistic period till the end of the Byzantine period. In contact with other languages (notably Semitic languages and Latin), it has gradually evolved without changing its basic structure, to become Modern Greek. Latin started in the Italic peninsula and, as Roman power extended over the centuries, has spread to most areas of present-day Europe, where it evolved to produce the Romance languages. Through the process of colonization, Latin has also spread to other parts of the world, notably the Americas.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 07/05/2019 - 2:46pm by Helen Cullyer.

ToposText is a set of tools that projects the geographic elements of ancient texts onto a mapping of the ancient world. Users can follow a classical reference from place-to-text, or from text-to-place. Zooming in on Thebes and clicking on “Cadmeia,” for example, takes us to 63 text entries, such as the Bios Ellados of Heracleides Criticus; clicking on Bios Ellados takes us to 36 map locations through 78 text references. The text is displayed in public-domain English translation (default) with a link to the original ancient Greek (in this case, at Bibliotheca Augustana). The places are located through a Google Map interface.


[1: Screenshot: ToposText Map of Thebes, including icon for Cademeia]

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 07/03/2019 - 10:01pm by Janet D. Jones.

Sixth Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Heritage of Western Greece

with special emphasis on

ἀρετή aretē: virtue, excellence, goodness

and a pre-conference seminar on Gorgias of Leontini

plus a post-conference tour of Greek cities in Calabria

Exedra Mediterranean Center
Syracuse, Sicily, 15-20 June , 2020

The cultural and intellectual legacy of Western Greece—the coastal areas of Southern Italy and Sicily settled by Hellenes in the 8th and 7th centuries BCE—is sometimes overlooked in academia.  Yet evidence suggests that poets, playwrights, philosophers, and other maverick intellectuals found fertile ground here for the growth of their ideas and the harvesting of their work.  The goal of the Fonte Aretusa organization is to revive the distinctive spirit of Western Greece by exploring it from a variety of disciplinary perspectives including art history, archaeology, classics, drama, epigraphy, history, literature, mythology, philosophy and religion.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 06/28/2019 - 9:47am by Erik Shell.

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