Once upon a time, students chose a field of study because they were drawn to it through the love of the language used in it. Or because they found it inspiring. Or beautiful. Or because they wanted to acquire a skill, such as the practice of medicine, that would improve the lot of their fellow man. Not this incoming Haverford student. She wants to study classics because there are too many white men in classics and that is bad. Very bad. She will change that.
In a June 20, 2021 opinion piece entitled, The Future of Classics: An Incoming Haverford Student’s Perspective in the The Bi-College News, the official newspaper of Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges, this young woman spends a good deal time obsessing about the racial backgrounds of her fellow students and sniffing out white supremacy wherever it may be found. That, apparently, is to be found in the heart of every white male she encounters, be he Julius Caesar in her seventh grade Latin class or now everywhere she looks in the field of classics as an undergraduate.
She claims to love the classics, but seems torn:
…but I still questioned whether I wanted to devote my years to a field that has promoted gatekeeping and been a sign of White supremacy. I contemplated why I would want to uphold Eurocentric history, and the white-washing of so many stories and perspectives.
Why a person would choose to study a topic that is centered on the writings of, you know, white people and then rant that it was all so oppressive is beyond me. After all, the field of Classics consists of the study of classical Greek and Roman literature and philosophy in their original languages and the cultures of those peoples. Let’s see now, where are Greece and Rome? Oh yeah, in Europe. Oops, there I go being Eurocentric again. I must stop pointing out facts. That is a sign of White supremacy.
But I should not worry about harming the self-esteem of this woman. She has plenty of that. Here she is on giving a talk at a conference:
Once I realized that everyone was focusing on me, my experiences, and my insights, I realized I could impact the field…
Now, that is sort of grandiosity that would make Julius Caesar proud.
And note that she doesn’t seem to find any joy in Classics at it stands. If ever there were a field in which tradition and heritage are key, it would be Classics. This self-important young woman is all about wanting to overthrow the very field that she seems most ill-suited for, given her drive for change, change, change. She says after hearing a fellow non-white person speak at a conference:
I felt that she was speaking to me, encouraging me to do all I could do to change the discipline.
Note that is not about contributing to the discipline or a love of it. It is about changing it. I suppose one could enter a discipline one thinks does not need to be upended, but then you might actually do worthwhile work within it rather than engaging in endless activism. And accomplishing things is not as exciting as demanding change.
This young woman is girded for battle even before she has experienced the program she is about to enter:
I am taking note of the world I will enter in the fall, and contemplating ways I will change my own department.
Might be a good idea to enter it with humility and not assume that the program is in desperate need of her ministrations. But humility is not part of this young woman’s makeup. As she says:
… I am already a voice in the field. When I arrive at Haverford College this fall, I intend to propel this conversation and become a catalyst for diversifying the field.
Yeah, I guess Classics doesn’t have enough egomaniacs in it already.