Why Are We Called “Latin”?

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Cole Lindemann Outsiders often (sarcastically) ask students at Latin if they are required to study the Latin language, and while these sorts of interactions usually yield the same awkward, worn out response, it begs the question: do Latin students know the meaning behind their school’s name? Sadly, Latin’s name doesn’t have any explicit ties to the Latin language. When Latin School first started out in 1888, it was called Ms. Vickery’s School. At the time, classes were taught by Mabel Slade Vickery — then the principal of Orange High School in Connecticut — and held in the library owned by the Blatchfords, a wealthy family that had recently moved to the Gold Coast. The “school” was originally intended to be a 2-year operation to prepare the Blatchford’s children for college, but the school grew with students from around the neighborhood, so parents purchased a new, spacious building and elected the name The Latin School of Chicago. At the time, the curriculum included Latin, Greek, French, German, English, science, and math. Latin was only one-eighth of the curriculum– which isn’t exactly sufficient reasoning for naming the school after it. The real reason it was named Latin School is because a “Latin School” was a term that described a school that focuses on the humanities, especially languages. A “Latin School” also has a particular teaching style — not prioritizing simple memorization but instead emphasizing self-expression and personal development. A quick google search will reveal that there are many different institutions with similarly based names such as The Latin School of Charlotte, NC or The Boston Latin School, which is the oldest public school in the country. The origins of Latin’s name isn’t the only fascinating part of the school’s history — just take a look at the 125th anniversary edition of Latin’s magazine. It has a detailed timeline of Latin’s history and is chock-full of intriguing facts (not to mention some awesome vintage pictures).  ]]>