Latin or “The Classics”?

This appeared on a Latin listserv:
 We’re up to 4590 signatures to help save Classics, Italian, French, and Russian at SUNY Albany. If you have a few moments, please sign! We New Yorkers need help saving this Classics program.

At the risk of being an impertinent nit-picker, where in that petition does it mention classics? I don’t see it. I see Italian, French, and Russian — not “classics”, “Latin”, or “Greek”. As happy as I am to promote those three languages (and I did sign the petition), aren’t you promoting something in dubious guise here?


At similar risk I would like to ask why Latin teachers do not want to be known as Latin teachers but as classicists. Why is Greek assumed to be Ancient Greek and not Modern Greek? When you say English and you mean the English of Beowulf, you have to say Old English. Every other language assumes you mean the modern form when you use the bare name; otherwise it’s Middle Dutch or Archaic Chinese or Old Norse or Old Russian, and so on.
If teachers of Latin want it treated as a language, then why not treat it as a language rather than as an adjunct to other studies? Students majoring in Arabic are not assumed to be studying archaeology and philology; they’re just learnng the language. An exception to that is the way majoring in a fl at the university level assumes study of the literature. But I disagree with that, too.

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