A question that has troubled Classicists for many a decade is how to rescue the study and appreciation of the culture, history of the Romans and ancient Greeks from being condemned to the marginalia of the educational curriculum. Take Ancient History. Fewer than 1,000 students take the subject at GCSE each year, and a small proportion of those are from state schools.
In an attempt to find out why, some academics from the University of Cambridge, according to the Curriculum Journal, surveyed students from three comprehensive schools who were studying the subject. Their findings are both revealing and worrying. Some said that the subject was viewed as “posh”, “academic”, “boring”, “elitist”, and “snobby”, views even shared by members of their own family. They opined that they would feel more comfortable if more people were studying it, a classic Catch-22 if there ever was one.
The fortunes of the Classics were on the wane even when I was studying the subjects – I even have an A level in Ancient History, my state school did not bother with it at O level, an elitist statement in its own right – and will continue to do so as fewer study the subjects and, so, fewer are qualified to teach them.
To me, history is history and reserving the study of a specific era as the preserve of Classics is probably doing the subject no favours. Just a thought.