Nowadays, there is still tremendous pressure for students to study something that is clearly useful and relevant: the idea of exploring a subject for its own intrinsic value and richness is often dismissed. If your son or daughter has already decided that their main interest is art, accountancy or engineering then, by all means, encourage them to concentrate on that; however, it is perhaps more sound not to lock themselves too early to one particular discipline.
If your child is looking for a unique subject that will engage their mind and fire their imagination, then Classics is qualified to do so. Once regarded as an education in itself, it remains the oldest and richest subject on the public-school curriculum.
Students at schools like King Edward’s Witley, have an opportunity sadly denied to most in the maintained sector of exploring the rich legacy of Classical Greece and Rome through three subjects: Latin, Classical Greek and Classical Civilisation. This allows our pupils to study the art, archaeology, philosophy, history, culture, language and literature of the Greeks and Romans; indeed, Classics is the only school subject where foreign language literature is examined at GCSE in the original and not in translation.
However, this subject is not simply a luxurious and old-fashioned indulgence: nearly eight out of ten English words come from Greek and Latin; Latin is the mother language of French, Romanian, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish; research has continuously suggested the value of the rigour and logic of the classical languages. So whether it is Hadrian’s Wall, the wonder of Pompeii, Greek tragedy, Roman comedy, New Testament Greek, passionate love-poetry, the mystery of the Trojan war, the grandeur of Vergil, the waspish Martial, the forensic intellect of Cicero, Greek mythology, Roman Emperors, Alexander the Great, Sparta or Athenian democracy, your child will find something to challenge and fascinate them through this subject.
Another good reason to study Classics is to see the world! The Classics Department calendar often includes popular overseas trips. J.K Rowling, Chris Martin of Coldplay and Boris Johnson are just three examples of what you can do with a classical education! Kevin Kline, in the film ‘The Emperor’s Club’ plays the role of American Classics teacher Mr. Hundert who urges his pupils to immerse themselves in the ‘giants of history…welcome to western civilisation, the Greeks and Romans’. And that is why Classics will always remain on the curriculum!