In Classical Studies, students study Greek mythology and Greek and Roman history and literature every year, gradually deepening their knowledge and understanding. This long grounding prepares students to read the classics of Greek, Roman, and English literature, and to study and understand the modern world.
Why spend so much time on the Greeks and Romans? Why not put this time and effort into American history and literature instead? It may seem only reasonable that the history of one’s own nation should be the focus of the curriculum, but, surprisingly, that is not the case.
There are many disadvantages to making the study of the student’s own national history and literature the focus of education. The first is that we cannot see our own history objectively, and thus it is difficult to draw lessons and conclusions from it. It is still too close to us and has not been sifted through time. We are not objective – in fact, we are emotionally involved and necessarily biased. In addition, we do not know the end of our story because our story is not yet over. It is difficult to draw conclusions since the conclusion has not come; our chapter is not finished. And, of course, we have nothing to compare our history to if we don’t study another civilization or nation before we study our own.
The classical civilizations of Greece and Rome are the perfect civilizations for the student to study and the teacher to teach. They have been thoroughly studied by many generations, and the lessons have been learned and are there for all to see. And we know the end of the story, so we can see consequences and draw conclusions.
In addition, all of the issues that we struggle with in the modern world – economic, political, religious, and social – are present in the ancient world in their simplest form. In Greece and Rome the perennial problems of the human condition can be seen at their beginning, while it is still possible to grasp them, to understand them, and to really see to the heart of the matter.