Bad News for Latin in the US, worse for Greek

A note on Modern Language Association’s Enrollments in Languages Other than English in United States Institutions for Higher Education: Fall 2013 (released, February 2015)
Gregory Crane
Comments to
May 2015

Summary: According to statistics published by the Modern Language Association in February 2015, between fall 2009 and fall 2013, enrollments in Ancient Greek and Latin at US postsecondary institutions suffered their worst decline since 1968, the earliest year for which the MLA offers such statistics. The number of enrollments in Greek and Latin declined from 52,484 to 40,109, a drop of 24%. This precipitous and rapid decline may reflect the lingering aftershocks of the financial crisis of 2008, which certainly raised student anxiety levels and may have driven students away from intellectually idealistic activities such as the study of Ancient Greek and Latin. The study of Greek and Latin in the United States weathered a tremendous challenge between 1960 and 1976, when secondary school enrollments in Latin declined from a steady state of c. 7.5% of all secondary school students to c. 1 – 1.5%. The opening years of the twenty-first century saw an overall surge in Greek and Latin enrollments (from 42,000 in 1998 to 55,000 in 2006) but the current total of c. 40,000 is the lowest since the MLA began providing data in 1968. Even if enrollments prove to have recovered in 2014 and 2015, no supporter of these languages — whether we are professionalized faculty members or not — should assume that the downturn is temporary and that we have developed a model for survival in what has always been, and always will be, the Darwinian space of human intellectual life. If we weathered the challenges of the late 20th century, we now must face the challenges and seize the opportunities of the early twenty-first century.

The full text of the discussion is here.

The Modern Language Association’s report on “Enrollments in Languages Other Than English
in United States Institutions of Higher Education,
Fall 2013” is here.

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