Updated: May 21
There is a crisis in the study of Classics and Classical Studies in the UK.
Pupil uptake in the state sector is low, meaning fewer teachers are produced, which means school departments are closed, which means that state school pupils are now often unaware of what Classics even is.
Unlike other subjects, Classical Studies has to justify itself. If a Geography department didn't attract enough pupils for a class, the school would pull out all the stops to keep it going. (This is nothing to do with Geography, merely to serve as an example. Modern Languages teachers may have a more acute understanding of the phenomenon I'm describing.) This is not the case for Classics.
After all, if 93% of the population don't experience Augustan Rome or Periclean Athens, there's no harm in just phasing it out. It's understandable.
For a number of years, charities and institutions have attempted to address this decline of a subject which once was a cornerstone of a British education. Some have done brilliant work, and thank god they did. Who knows where we'd be without their input.
The corollary to this decline is that it has been left to private schools to keep the subject alive. I am aware that the reasons for this are multi-faceted, but it is the reality we now face. As an extension of this, the concepts of Latin, Greek and the study of the ancient world are now almost completely associated with the private sector in British eductaion.
This is not to understate the brilliant work being done by individual teachers in state schools in the UK, but those teachers are exceptions. Brilliant, extraordinary exceptions.
The end-game of this decline is that for a generation (at least), the study of Aristophanes, Aspasia, Augustus, Boudica and Plato have been a luxury for those blessed with parents able to afford a private education.
We're not here to apportion blame, but, just as the Elgin Marbles should be returned after a long period of safe-keeping, so Latin, Greek and Classical Studies should be redelivered to the 93% of children in the UK who do not attend an independent school.
Working Classicists is a collective that believes in equality in education and opportunity within the field of Classical Studies. We want to represent those who are not part of the private schooled 7%, yet still strive for an education or career in Classics.
We believe that whatever background you are from you should be able to pursue an enthusiasm in these subjects, as a hobby, a course of study, or as a profession.
There is a great tradition of Classical scholarship from the working class, and our sole aim is to promote this through an active and engaged collective support network.
Historically, the study of the ancient world has been the domain of ‘gentleman scholars’ and the 7%. We believe that significant redistribution of the ‘knowledge wealth’ in this area hinges on developing networks of connection between individuals and organisations who have difficulty in accessing it.
Through this site, we want to provide a hub which can help Working Classicists to easily access information and opportunities in the subject, either as an individual or organisation.
So, please, start a thread in the forum; engage with us on Twitter; write an article for this Zine. Get involved.
This site is intended to give a voice to you, me, and everyone else who wants to air a perspective. Perhaps we can use this hub to promote and encourage Classics in the state sector. Let's share resources. Let's talk about our anxieties. Let's help each other directly.
This subject is surely too glorious not to.