It is unfortunate that a lot of universities have stopped offering Latin and I know a couple of universities in my state that dropped their Classics department. I wonder if it’s due to a lack of interest from students. Because I was surprised many people I met in my history courses are not interested in Ancient Rome or Greece. I don’t know anyone that deeply interested in antiquity, which sucks because Ancient Rome and Greece is my favorite historical period and I can’t discuss it with anyone.
Part of the problem is lack of interest of from students, but I think it’s more from a lack of funding than anything else. From a utilitarian standpoint, Classics is not seen as valuable or essential to a university in the same way as, say, a mathematics department, so the university decides that Classics must go. And small humanities seminars cost more than large, less-specialized lecture classes. For example, I know that my professors had to get special permission to even keep offering some of our upper-level language classes because the class sizes were smaller than the typical minimum allowed.
(Further ranting under cut, sorry; feel free to ignore this.)
It seems rather ironic to me that a hundred or two hundred years ago any well-educated person (or rather, any well-educated man) had to know ancient history and Latin at least and preferably Ancient Greek too, and now it’s such an esoteric thing. Even my university, which was founded as a land-grant school, thought that they needed to add a Classics department (because of the prestige) as late as the 1960s!
I understand why Classics isn’t useful to many people (and I think it’s a bit silly to come up with reasons for studying it like “Latin helps with your SATs!” rather than saying “it’s interesting” or “knowing history is important”), but the lack of interest I can’t really explain. I think schools concentrate more on education in a particular subject area than a broad range of topics, so that’s part of it. And many people attend college for professional advancement rather than education per se, which is completely understandable.
More than the engineering or business majors or what have you, I find it bizarre (and annoying) that people who attend college to study something esoteric are also often very narrowly-focused. It was very frustrating in my history department because most of the students were Americanists and not interested in any other area (in the history students society, we once played a disastrous game of hangman that was derailed by no one being able to guess any people or places outside of their particular areas). One time another ancient history major asked why on earth I would want to take a class on the Crusades! That’s not even getting into the (friendly?) rivalry between the Latinists and Hellenists in the Classics department… Or the astronomy and physics majors who were befuddled by the presence of a history major at a lecture on gravitational waves…