In their column, Naman Trivedi (SFS ’16) and Rohan Shetty (MSB ’16) criticize “formalized, course-based teaching” at Georgetown for “fail[ing] to make learning integrative and high-impact” (“Levels of Learning in a New Curriculum,” Nov. 10, 2015, The Hoya). Without citing evidence or data to support this view, they then propose replacing the classes currently offered by Georgetown’s classics department with “four major projects” — such as designing “an extensive blueprint of an ancient Greek temple.” The authors demonstrate no awareness of the work classics majors are already doing as well as the great success recent classics graduates have had not only in the classroom but also in many professional fields.
Through the classes they take, classics majors develop advanced skills. For example, they learn to analyze the artifacts of an archaeological site or to read and understand Greek and Latin texts that may never have been translated into English. Upper-level classes are the “creative labs” Trivedi and Shetty call for, and involve individual and collaborative learning in many forms. But this would be impossible without foundational coursework that provides hands-on help in navigating the world of knowledge. Moreover, classics majors already supplement their regular classes to build up the expertise they need. Some participate in archaeological field schools; some work in museums — for which substantial coursework is a prerequisite; some study related fields such as economics or history and write ambitious senior theses that have garnered interest from experts in the field.
After college, classics students have flourished in diverse fields including medicine, law, publishing, finance, journalism and teaching. Like other liberal arts majors, they bring to their careers an ability to think analytically about complex problems in unfamiliar settings. In an age where information is so abundant and technical skills can rapidly become obsolete, this ability is critical. Classics faculty regularly discuss how best to design and keep current an “integrative” curriculum that ultimately allows students to pursue their own high-level projects with success. Individual courses are constantly revised to foster engagement with open-ended problems. We invite all Georgetown students to try one of our classes and to seek us out for advice about our program.