It's No Myth, Classical Studies a Hot Topic

Article excerpt

During the last decade, universities across the country have seen enrollment in classical studies programs reach new highs.

Most college students can't go far before bumping into classical studies, which includes various forms of ancient history and language, philosophy, anthropology and archaeology.

But this return to the classics makes for more than just interesting classroom discussions.

The number of high school students taking Latin has increased 20 percent in the past decade. Tests show those students do better on standardized tests such as the SAT.

Classical studies can even help students get a job.

When larger companies come to a college campus looking for new employees, they want someone with a broad education who is capable of reasoning and applied learning, said Lewis A. Sussman, chairman of the Classical Studies Department at the University of Florida.

It's often classical studies students who are targeted.

Sussman points out that most classical studies students minor in the subject or are getting double majors. That makes them much more marketable.

"Most people don't realize what a classical studies education does," Sussman said. "It's mostly a component of a broad liberal education. Students develop better vocabulary, reading and writing skills and a good cultural background. That makes them a very well-rounded person."

The entertainment industry also has noticed the possibilities of the classics.

TV has adapted The Odyssey and Jason and the Argonauts. And in theaters this year, Gladiator, very loosely based on ancient Roman history, opened the summer blockbuster season at the top of the box office. Macho Russell Crowe and violent gladiator duels probably had more to do with its success than did its historical underpinnings, but the ancient setting was still awesome and intriguing.

Colleges have noticed an upward trend in classical studies. UF's program is small, with just 74 students enrolled last school year. But that's more than double the 33 enrolled in it during the 1989-90 year.

More than doubling the enrollment sounds unusual, but it is common across the country. At Boston University, for example, the enrollment in 1989-1990 was 821, while in 1999-2000 it had jumped to 1,714. …