Every so often, there’s a high-school Latin program or a college classics department that is about to be shut down, and a plea goes out to the classics community to mount a letter-writing campaign to insist that the powers that be retain whatever was threatened with closure. Sometimes these campaigns are successful, and sometimes they are not. But even when they work, I would imagine that the teachers and scholars who escape with their jobs likely have the feeling that they are living on borrowed time. A future round of budget cuts may very well see their departments back on the chopping block.
I believe that where it occurs this cycle of looming cuts, loud protests, and backing off (for the time being) is an indication that the marketing function among professionals in classics has gone dead. In fact, marketing and classics (or marketing and Latin) are not two words that one often finds in the same sentence. This is not a good thing.
The days are long gone when society simply expected Latin to be part of a curriculum. The days are also long gone when students filled the classes offered, either because they were headed for a field in which Latin was required or they wanted the benefits they knew they could expect to gain from studying Latin.
Latin must compete for the attention of education bureaucrats and of students, against more subjects and time-fillers than ever before, and if the case for it is not compelling or is not even made in the first place, then it is no wonder–considering its perceived status as a dead language relevant only to elites who make no real contribution to society’s progress–that it is so easily dispensed with among the general public. My argument is that everyone who has any love at all for Latin or Greek needs also a basic education in marketing and needs to put it into practice as best they can.
Here’s my advice: Move a couple of the Loebs over on the shelf, and make room, for instance, for Brian Tracy’s The Psychology of Selling: How to Sell More, Easier, and Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible.