Classics and Prufrock and $30k Tuition
When I tell people I want to study classics, they give me weird looks. “What?” “That's so random.” And I agree; it's completely and totally random. Like many competitive schools nowadays, my classmates — including me — are hyper STEM-focused. Here, you'll find Robotics flyers posted on twenty-three different Instagram stories, enthused student officers screaming at you to sign up for Finance Club, news alerts about our national championship Math Madness team and the like. There's this newfound belief (read: pandemonium) that STEM education holds the key to a secure, prosperous future. And if the pop-up of private, $30k/year schools with STEM-focused, Advanced-Placement-driven curriculums aren't indicative warning signs, I'm not sure what is. A belief? Maybe. I think it's a madness. I've spent most of my time delving into the world of science and math. So I'm not knocking on the merits of STEM education at all; my chemistry research mentors and Science Olympiad advisors would be at the very least offended if I threw away their gifts of knowledge like that. Yet, there's something lost in the neglecting of humanities; in a sea of future mathematicians, entrepreneurs, and engineers like myself, I can count the number of history/literary hopefuls I know on one hand. My interest in classics is recent. I've only just begun to delve into the two-thousand-year-old world, and I'm only starting to put together the pieces of the field's significance. For the most part, classics, like other non-STEM fields, is soothing. It's fun and interesting. I'm fully aware that there's genuine passion and fulfillment in crunching numbers and solving physics problems, but the arts and humanities just strike a different chord — one of free expression, boundless imagination, and infinite understanding. Unlike STEM, I believe classics is relevant in teaching the value of us — our past, our motivations, our fate, our dreams, our limitations — through the lens of myths. As Homer famously says in the Iliad, “Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is the man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.” Classics, unlike many liberal arts fields, draws value in stripping away deceptions and cloaks; it gives us raw anguish and emotion, dissimilar to modern works, which arguably encourage an understanding of complex historical context. But the field of classics is fundamental — there is nothing prior, only other myths in context. As the basis of Western literature and really, civilization, classics is incredibly crucial to unlocking the secrets of famous works. T. S. Elliot's well-known “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” makes clear references to Hesiod's Work and Days and opens with Dante's Inferno — the latter of which literally features Virgil throughout. Elliot also makes references to Shakespeare's Hamlet, which cites the Fall of Troy (the Aeneid), among other allusions I definitely missed. Mind. Blowing. (Or am I just a nerd, and this epiphany only surprising to me?) I imagine the average Biopage reader is well-read; if not specifically in classics, at least with contemporary literature, modern journalism, and the sort. It's something I aspire to be. And for me, and all my fellow science nerds, perhaps the best way to find ourselves is by reconnecting with our roots — even if it's old, dead, white men.