An opinion piece from the Pilot, apparently in response to some news items last week which pointed out that not many people were graduating with Classics or foreign language degrees:

Forget the painful intricacies of conjugating the Latin verb amare. Ditto for knowing what the Gadsden Purchase was, or who promoted the theory of nullification.

It seems that classics and languages as college majors are as dead as Socrates. At the six area colleges and universities, only a handful of this year’s graduates received diplomas in these subjects.

At Old Dominion University, a mere seven graduates majored in a foreign language. Ditto for Christopher Newport . And fewer than a dozen seniors got history degrees from Norfolk State and Hampton University, philosophy degrees from ODU, or classical studies degrees from William and Mary.

Not too long ago the study of the classics was the mark of an educated person. No more. These days, students know Homer and “The Odyssey” more as a precursor to the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” than as an epic Greek tale.

That’s a misconception.

Disciplines such as philosophy and religion help train the mind to think about significant issues or view problems in a different way. Such analytical and critical-thinking skills come in handy when jumping through graduate school hoops like the Law School Admission Test.

Majors like Latin and Greek are vocabulary building blocks with similar reading and post-graduate test-taking benefits. And thanks to the globalization of business and America’s ongoing commitments abroad, there’s a demand for employees with strong foreign language skills.

Most folks who have found success after college will give students the same words of wisdom: It doesn’t really matter what you major in as long as you do well. Indeed, philosophy majors have gone on to become lawyers, history majors have become journalists and French majors have become businessmen.

If that can’t get students reciting he Greek alphabet, consider this: A classical education makes for a formidable opponent in Trivial Pursuit. Sapere aude!