Comparing the Decline of the Classics to the Crisis of the Humanities

When the University of Nebraska-Lincoln opened its doors in 1869, the study of Classics was alive and well. Every student, no matter their educational focuses or aspirations, was subject to a heavily classical curriculum. All students who attended the University in the late 19th century and the early 20th century had some Latin, and many also had some Greek. The knowledge of ancient languages along with courses on ancient history, philosophy, and rhetoric allowed for a more broad humanistic education for all who attended the University.

The 1920s, though prolific times for the American economy, were a dark time for government-funded Universities. By 1923, the University could no longer afford to keep post-secondary education free for students and started to charge for tuition. In reaction to this change, many students, parents, and educators called for a curriculum reform that increased job security. A decrease in a classical curriculum meant a decrease in the teachings of Classics itself, and faculty members had a difficult time convincing the University that the Classics needed to live in some form, even if no longer a requirement of a college education.

The Beginnings of the UNL Classics Department: An Inquiry into Influence draws a parallel between the past decrease of the classical curriculum at UNL and the current crisis of the humanities. As the classical curriculum decreased, vocational programs like business became more popular. Students felt being taught how to be an accountant or a company manager would be more useful in getting them a job after graduation. Today, the same notions cause students to go into nursing or computer science rather than an arts or humanities degree. After viewing many materials that discuss past or present concerns regarding the study of classics, or humanities subjects in general, it became apparent that the materials from the early UNL Classics department might be useful for current researchers to consult.

The Beginnings of the UNL Classics Department: An Inquiry into Influence is a digital archive that aims to follow the University's incorporation of the Classics into their curriculum from 1869 to 1935, as well as faculty and students who impacted and were impacted by that incorporation. Presenting materials that pertain to this project such as photographs, published articles, transcribed letters, and curriculum bulletins in a website format helps University Archives because it allows for researchers to view materials anywhere they have access to the internet. Without this resource, researchers would have to rely on ground mail to receive materials or they'd have to travel to Lincoln.

Comparing the Decline of the Classics to the Crisis of the Humanities