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resident classicist
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
One thing I cannot stand is when somebody asks me my major, and after hearing that it's classics, they either A. laugh, B. make some comment about how they're taking "real classes" (by which they mean math/science), or C. ask me immediately what I'm gonna do with a major in that. It's infuriating.

Am I the only one who gets bombarded with this disparaging attitude towards the liberal arts? Sure, I can't sit there and solve math formulas, but I'd really like to see them try to translate a Cicero speech or some Thucydides and then they could see for themselves how ****ing "easy" the liberal arts are.

/endrant.
 

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subtastic
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I get the same sorts of responses when I tell people I'm an English major. It makes me crazy.

I overheard a woman on the train telling her daughter that arts degrees shouldn't exist because "No arts student actually does any work."

It was really hard not to leap out of my seat and strangle her.
 

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resident classicist
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
What I don't get is how nobody seems to realize that any subject is very difficult at upper levels. When those sorts of people think about what the English majors do, they're thinking of their high school English classes or the ones they're required to do in college (100/200 level). When they think of classics (something that most people are really unfamiliar with), they think of a bunch of scrawny pale kids with glasses bull****ting about philosophy for a few hours.
 

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This is my fault. I did a general arts degree and have always found it difficult to intellectually commit to anything. I have a mediocre degree in nothing in particular. I'm one of a covert society that now works (out of ignorance, of course) to destroy the credibility of the liberal arts.
 

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She-Wolf
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sometimes older generations still have the attitude that we should go down the route of working towards a career/job that is most likely to ultimately ensure that we will earn a good wage and enough to live comfortably without worry about money.
i am not yet in university or college but when i express that i am interested in the arts or literature (among others) i get occasionally get the reaction along the lines of "why would you want to do that? you're not going to make any money by just knowing how to draw".

most people i know in my age group do mostly take courses along those lines and its sometimes joked among them that they will probably end up living in a shack or working at starbucks (though exaggerations of course), but a lot of us just have the attitude that studying a field and having that knowledge, and hopefully getting a job in that - or even working with that on the side while having another part-time job - is better than just doing something you hate just for the money. it just seems so much more important to immerse yourself as much as you can in something you are passionate about and that truly gives you some sort of happiness (even if it is quite minor) rather than the alternative.

of course, people just have different values. i wouldn't look down on anyone for choose to study those fields (and i also wouldn't look down on those who just want a job with good pay, i just can't completley relate).
in fact i would find some of the really intense art programs to be very difficult. i would love to take major in photography but it would entail having to at least take other courses on painting, drawing (etc) and i am crap at those. i'm also bad at constantly creating and having new ideas so i really admire those who can do it successfully.

i also always find it reassuring when i do meet others who are of older generations and tell me how great it is that i'm not going down the route of only choosing something that will get you a good job as they very much regret not choosing to do what they really loved when they were my age.
 

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What I don't get is how nobody seems to realize that any subject is very difficult at upper levels. When those sorts of people think about what the English majors do, they're thinking of their high school English classes or the ones they're required to do in college (100/200 level). When they think of classics (something that most people are really unfamiliar with), they think of a bunch of scrawny pale kids with glasses bull****ting about philosophy for a few hours.
What do Classics scholars do anyway? I'm studying philosophy and becoming increasingly disillusioned with the whole enterprise. In academic philosophy we seem to engage in endless debate about abstract concepts that have no relevance to daily life. But we do so following the rules of good reasoning, inductive or deductive. I took an Ancient Philosophy course and one of my profs was a Classics scholar. I know he engages in translation, and I recognize that this is very difficult. But aside from that... what else? Why should anyone study Classics (aside from reading Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, etc. in their original languages, which is cool... but... not necessary for living a good life).

Or is that why? By engaging directly with the Ancients, do we some how gain a better understanding for ourselves about what the good life entails? Or, is the study of the Ancients part of contemplation, and as Aristotle argues, part of the good life? Is Aristotle correct that contemplation is part of the good life?

Most people seem to sleepwalk through life never really questioning the values and beliefs under which they operate. But, they usually report being happy.
 

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Well, people say stupid things about computer science majors, too.

I am just now starting to learn a little bit about philosophy. I've been listening to the "Giants of Philosophy" audio series on my iPod over the past couple months. I'm not sure if it's dumbed down much, but I find it to be very accessible and thought provoking. Then again, I'm in the 0.001% of people who would listen to that for fun. I enjoyed reading about Greek and Roman history as a youth, but I never understood it in any kind of integrated sense.

What little philosophy I was exposed to in academia seemed excessively dry. It felt like more of a system of categorizing than anything else. It's too bad we can't just appreciate thinkers in context, for who they are.

Spending a weekend around journalism majors also made me realize they're a lot more fun and personable than average computer science majors. I'm still glad I have this degree and the skills that come with it, but I'm realizing I need to be more open to new experiences. I do feel like having my "boring" job does help me to appreciate the classics for what it is, i.e. more than just a reading assignment.
 

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resident classicist
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
What do Classics scholars do anyway? I'm studying philosophy and becoming increasingly disillusioned with the whole enterprise. In academic philosophy we seem to engage in endless debate about abstract concepts that have no relevance to daily life. But we do so following the rules of good reasoning, inductive or deductive. I took an Ancient Philosophy course and one of my profs was a Classics scholar. I know he engages in translation, and I recognize that this is very difficult. But aside from that... what else? Why should anyone study Classics (aside from reading Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, etc. in their original languages, which is cool... but... not necessary for living a good life).

Or is that why? By engaging directly with the Ancients, do we some how gain a better understanding for ourselves about what the good life entails? Or, is the study of the Ancients part of contemplation, and as Aristotle argues, part of the good life? Is Aristotle correct that contemplation is part of the good life?

Most people seem to sleepwalk through life never really questioning the values and beliefs under which they operate. But, they usually report being happy.
What do we do?
We translate works of literature from the original Greek and Latin, interpret the author's use of grammar, the historical influences upon that author, and his greater influence. There's also history courses, mythology courses, art history courses, and "classical civ" which could be anything from women's role in antiquity to the use of sports to battle tactics to daily rituals. It's really four or five majors jammed into one.

Why?
The Ancients are incredibly important because they influenced everything. Literature, culture, government, etc. We cannot allow the knowledge of our past to be forgotten. An understanding of classics is a great jumping-off point for general academia. Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jane Addams, and W.E.B. DuBois all studied classics and went on to careers that would seem to have nothing to do with classics, but actually really did draw on what they'd learnt.

But when it comes down to it, I study classics because I genuinely enjoy it.
 

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I see this attitude all the time, and while I'm an English translation major myself, I can't help thinking there's some truth behind it. Sciences simply aren't equal. In linguistics there are people, researchers, literally studying the layout and WEIGHT of junk mail. No kidding. In liberal arts you have way too many people studying things that are simply not worth gaining any knowledge on.

As for difficulty...I don't know the first thing about quantum physics, and I know I wouldn't understand it even if I studied it. I admire people who can tackle that stuff. Yet, a completely average mind like me can be one of the best translators in the entire faculty, and all it took was to learn a language and read a book or two about how to not translate like a retard.

But when it comes down to it, I study classics because I genuinely enjoy it.
That's what it should be all about anyway.
 

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As an anthropology major I've gotten a lot of stupid comments too. And a lot of people don't even know what it is. I recently started going for a double degree in biological anthropology and criminal justice (going possibly for forensic anthropology at graduate level) and now I'm getting comments like "Now you can make some money at least." I'd love to answer sometime "that's not why I chose that focus, ***hole."

I like this description of antropology: "The most scientific of the humanities, and the most human of the sciences."
 

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unashamed perv
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Why?
The Ancients are incredibly important because they influenced everything. Literature, culture, government, etc. We cannot allow the knowledge of our past to be forgotten. An understanding of classics is a great jumping-off point for general academia. Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jane Addams, and W.E.B. DuBois all studied classics and went on to careers that would seem to have nothing to do with classics, but actually really did draw on what they'd learnt. it.
This reminds me how much I wish I'd had the chance to study Greek and Latin at school. Due to the prevailing instrumentalist attitude (ie German is useful, Latin is not), I only got to study modern languages. Boo!
 

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unashamed perv
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Among those who are in school to actually learn, I don't know that this battle between the liberal arts and sciences even exists.
Ooh, it does in my alma mater (Glasgow, UK). When I was there, the english department was shoved out of the best rooms to make way for Business Studies. Eng Lit PhD students didn't even get their own offices - the only PhD students on campus who didn't.
 

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May I recommend "Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?" by Frank Furedi?
I haven't read that one - it looks interesting. Another really good book is Anti-intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter, which runs along those same lines, though obviously it addresses the American version of the problem. It's a bit older (published in 1963) but still incredibly relevant and explores more of the historical evolution of the cult of practicality that's so pervasive in American culture. It's the same kind of attitude today - liberal arts people and educated people in general caricatured as elitist and frivolous and unsuited for the "real world" at best, dangerously subversive at worst, and all the rest of it.

I remember there was a lot of this sniping back and forth between the sciences and the humanities in college. A lot of it was just stuff like, who spent more time in class, who spent more time doing assignments - I guess it's natural to engage in some petty rivalry and competition against the "opposing" group to some extent. I agree it's all very silly. Many of America's founding fathers, for instance, were scientists and tradesmen as well as great lovers of literature, history and philosophy.
 

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College is useless in my opinion. I am taking it mostly because my parents would kick me out(probablly) if I didnt go, and i cant afford to live on my own. However, my aspirations are to be a pro poker player, so I focus more of my time playing online poker then studying lol, my major is psychology which also helps.
 

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I get to tell people that I'm pursuing a PhD English Lit, so I usually get responses something like C or D: "Oh, that's so interesting! Have you read [insert contemporary popular best-selling novel by an author more concerned with sales than aesthetics]?" The answer to D is always "No," either because I haven't read it, or because I don't want to talk about it.
 

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Every though I've gone the liberal arts route, I find allot about the Four year system to be a fraud. I even think bachelor degrees in general seemed to be misplaced from an older era when the bachelor degree was THE gold standard of higher education. My grandfather for instance went to MIT and only got a BS, and went on with his career. How many MIT grads nowadays would settle for only a bachelor's degree? Not very many. But than again thats MIT, but 60 years ago a bachelor's degree alone actually had value.

Maybe its wishful thinking, but I always wanted there to be some alternative to a bachelor's degree that would just cut the crap and focus on your major's requirements only. Obviously, taking "geology 101" and "Foreign language" classes are completly irrelevent for the steps liberal arts students want to do after they graduate. And vice versa for science and business majors. The undergraduate programs should be 2-3 years rather than 4-5 years, which is typical these days.

Thats my disgruntled rant of that day.
 

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I get to tell people that I'm pursuing a PhD English Lit, so I usually get responses something like C or D: "Oh, that's so interesting! Have you read [insert contemporary popular best-selling novel by an author more concerned with sales than aesthetics]?" The answer to D is always "No," either because I haven't read it, or because I don't want to talk about it.
Majoring in poli sci, I get response like that all the time. Like, I bring up what major is to someone my age, they either politely nod (usually idicating that the don't follow politics), or if they do follow politics, they go completely overboard all tell me how they want to shoot Dick Cheney in the face or something.

Anyway, its always anger that people use to start political chit-chat. If their a right winger, they might tell me how their afraid Obama's going to shut down talk radio or some thing. When its a lefty, they usually love to talk about how they hate Palin or perhaps even still express their hatred for W.

That sums up our political discourse in America. People are either apathetic or raging partisans. Because most people don't ever discuss
politics, it's always complaining. But I honestly have more respect for the apathetic, so long as they don't vote.
 

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All the time, especially from my dad, he wants me to take like math and become an accountant for something which makes me just want to die... I'm thinking a degree in history or something... As for what are you going to do with that major? I think you can do anything you want, I would rather do something I love then something everyone thinks will get me a job. Well anyway, I think classics sounds wayyy more fun than like majoring in math.
 

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I'm in my last year of undergrad. My degree will be in Theatre Administration. I'm sure you can guess the kinds of responses I get with that one. I'm going on to grad school next year to get a master's in English so I'm quite obviously a glutton for punishment.
 
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