Among the options for your BA programme, you were offered Philosophy and Classics, and you are at a loss. Like I was advised by my parents and some of my secondary school teachers, you too may have been told to drop philosophy and classics in your first or second year of study.
The year was 2005. I had been offered a combination of classics, philosophy, sociology and economics. My dad quickly sent me to see a secondary school teacher for advice. The teacher’s advice? “Drop classics first, followed by philosophy, then sociology, and major economics.”
My uncles said I could work in a bank with a major in economics. They didn’t want to hear anything classics or philosophy. At least, they preferred sociology over them but they desired I read economics. To cut a long story short, I majored classics (I will tell you all about it in another post).
Why did everyone want me to read economics instead of classics and/or philosophy, and what could be the cause of your confusion over these subjects?
First, unlike economics, accounting, chemistry, and geography, philosophy and classics are not studied as subjects in secondary school and they come as totally new to students. Even subjects like political science and sociology have affinities with government and social studies respectively.
Nevertheless, you might have met some philosophical issues in your readings in government, social studies and religious and moral education, and you might have read something close to classics. Did you read Ola Rotimi’s The Gods are Not to Blame? It’s an adaptation of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, a Greek play first performed between 430 and 426BC.
Second, many of us (and our parents and guardians are the worst culprits) have a materialistic conception of education due to failed understanding of growing industrialization and expanding market economies.
As a result, we have developed a misconception that only graduates of business-related subjects qualify for jobs in the field of business. It is therefore not surprising that many parents do not see the value in a liberal arts education that combines any of archaeology, classics, history, literature, music and philosophy. For them, a degree in a business-related field is all that matters.
But consider the core skills employers seek and the qualifying degrees of those working in the banks, for example. Several of them have degrees in arts-related subjects. So, it’s not a question of whether you read business or psychology (of course there are professions which demand specialized qualifications), but a question of your character and the skills you possess.
If it were just about the course you read, then firms wouldn’t recruit graduates from all fields and ask them (whether first or second-class holders) to write the same aptitude tests; neither will they even conduct background checks on potential employees. Have you not heard employers say that many of today’s graduates lack critical thinking skills and good character?
What are philosophy and classics, and what do they offer?
Philosophy is basically a critical inquiry into and reflection on issues that border on human life and the environment surrounding us. It involves an analytical approach to questioning and demands responses and conclusions that are based on evidence and valid reasoning.
Classics studies, primarily, the civilizations of the ancient Greeks and Romans, including their histories, literatures, languages (Greek and Latin) and philosophies. These four broad areas provide the foundation for our modern socio-political systems. Our modern democracy, for example, combines elements of ancient Greek and Roman models of governance.
Any serious study of philosophy and classics sharpens your analytical, communication and critical thinking skills. While other subjects can help you cultivate these skills, the demands of philosophy and classics, combined with their unmatched interdisciplinarity, place them at a great advantage over these subjects.
Yes, studying philosophy and classics demands more than what many other subjects will require from you. It involves a lot commitment to study, analysis and writing. We teach you to think, make you reflect critically on issues, help you bring the past to bear on today’s problems, while reasoning ways these problems can be tackled. It’s one of the reasons why graduates in philosophy and classics are in high demand globally.
Our alumni are in all fields of work: journalism, theatre, theology, administration, politics, education, banking and finance, insurance, media, advertising, health, librarianship, NGOs, diplomacy, law, international relations, security, writing and publishing, name them.
But we don’t limit ourselves to helping you acquire employable skills. We also impart the values needed for you to excel anywhere in life. Through our critical analysis of issues (moral, historical, social, political, economic), we drive home the principle of an education that imparts not just knowledge but the right values for the betterment of society and for your own well-being.
Reading philosophy and classics is such a great privilege. Don’t miss it.
Photo: Raphael’s “School of Athens”