Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation have always been in the national curriculum in one way or another, but they may perhaps be less widespread now and more stereotyped against, compared to the preceding decades. To confirm whether this is the case, previously an established academic & teacher, Mrs Charlotte O’Connell was interviewed for the very same questions you will see below. Now, Mr Luke Goodchild, an acclaimed expert of classical studies at Tiffin Boys Grammar School, has also agreed to also express his professional viewpoint, and help us make an informed decision de futuro to determine if this will be detrimental in the long term and what we can take away from this broad field of study.

For those who are not familiar with the term, let’s begin ab initio - what is classics?

"Broadly speaking, Classics is the study of the ancient cultures of the Mediterranean, predominantly the period spanning from Classical Greece to the end of the Western Roman Empire. There are other areas which come under the umbrella of Classics, such as Egyptology and the study of ancient Mesopotamia. Classics comprises both linguistic and historical elements. The two go hand-in-hand, as there is no better way to learn about the ancient world than to read the texts in the original language, replete with nuance and insight which it would be impossible to appreciate if merely read in translation. Therefore, Classicists spend a rather large amount of time becoming familiar with the languages themselves. Indeed, the concept of investigating language itself, known today as linguistics, grew out of the Classical discipline of philology. Therefore, the bulk of Classical scholarship is concerned with the study of these ancient texts.

There is also a huge amount of physical evidence, known as 'material culture', which may be studied in order to gain insights into the way the peoples of the ancient world lived. This includes everything from the grandiose architectural wonders such as the Parthenon or the Pantheon, statues and inscriptions and painted vases, to the study of the mundane waste thrown out by ancient households. There is also the study of ancient philosophy, politics and society, and how these have influenced our own. In short, it would be easier to say what Classics is not, rather than what it actually is!”

What do you enjoy in the subject of classics? Do you have anything in particular that is your favourite or extremely worthy of mention?

“I had the wonderful privilege of being able to study Latin and Greek for GCSE and A-level. I found the languages themselves incredibly interesting, as well as the numerous texts studied. Plato and Cicero became my favourite authors: I studied the Apology by Plato and The 2nd Catilinarian speech by Cicero. I found the character of Socrates to be particularly compelling, and Cicero is so wide-ranging in his scope that he seems to touch on all aspects of Classical thought. I came back to these two authors for my MA thesis, in which I analysed Cicero's treatment of Plato's works: specifically, his translation technique when rendering Plato's Greek into Latin.”

The following is Mr Luke Goodchild’s response to all of the below questions in one:

Why is classics education significant in today’s society?

What are the benefits of being classically educated? Is it useful?

Could there be any explanation or reason why classics has dropped immensely out of the UK’s curriculum? (For example opposed to countries such as Italy or Greece?)

Do you believe that classics education should be more widespread again, available and more prevalent than it is now in the national curriculum. What is your justification?

“The British education system has had a complex relationship with Classics. It used to be that all students would receive a grounding in Latin if not Greek as well. Indeed, it was compulsory in schools throughout the Victorian era. It was only in 1960 that Oxford and Cambridge began to accept students with no prior education in Classics; until then, there was a difficult Latin exam which had to be faced in order to gain entry. 

This attitude is obviously flawed and seems to have generated a popular image of Classics as a stuffy, elitist subject, the preserve only of public schoolboys and crusty old professors. This has clearly been damaging to the popular perception of Classics, and the pendulum seems to have swung too far the other way, with the vast majority of schools not even offering any Classics teaching at all. 

However, I believe that there is much to be gained today from studying Classics. The ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome are the bedrock of modern Western culture. Lost for over a millennium, it was only upon the rediscovery of these ideas during the renaissance that such rapid progress was possible in areas such as physics, political thought, philosophy, chemistry, medicine and many other areas. There is clear value, therefore, in studying the origin of these disciplines. Added to this is the ability to access the brilliance of the Roman poets, the Athenian playwrights, and many others. There is something for everyone in Classics and I believe that it is the ultimate 'humanities' subject.”

As Mr Luke Goodchild passionately illustrates, classics is far from the stereotypes of an elitist futile subject; it doesn't peevishly attempt to plot the breeding of immense resentment per se nor does it excessively demand quid pro quo, but it just simply offers a vast plethora of indisputable practicalities and benefits. Despite the decreased numbers, the whole host of fields in which Latin and Greek particularly are encompassed in, are the embodiment, and one of the most integral parts of our modern societies.