Are We Ashamed of Our School?

Chris Quazzo

          In the past twelve years that I’ve spent at our school, I’ve felt a looming social stigma around the idea of attending Latin, as if it were something to be ashamed of. I think the causes of this stigma are certain negative outside perceptions of Latin that have shaped the relatively low degree of pride and spirit that we display. That’s not to say that the outside perceptions of Latin are strictly negative because, of course, they are not. But, drawing from personal experience, which I know many others can relate to, Latin has often been associated with privilege and snottiness and we, its students, stereotyped as spoiled and conceited. And although we know that that is a vastly inaccurate description of our community, we have, in the past, dealt with it by simply remaining in our bubble, or as Mr. Dunn astutely put it: that building that looks a bit more like a hospital than a school.

        One anonymous student, who has been attending Latin for a long time, shared his/her opinion, which I think well articulates the effect that our school’s past culture has had on us: “I think when I was younger, I didn’t feel comfortable with the Latin apparel I had. I had maybe a few Romans Run shirts and, of course, my bright orange Latin PE shirt. Regardless of how I got them, they were always gym clothes, something that you wear at school but you don’t take outside of that setting. I wasn’t ashamed of going to Latin, but there was something keeping me from wanting to wear the school logo on the front of my shirt. Even now, I’m self-conscious about walking around in the Boathouse jacket. Because there’s a stigma that comes with how incredible our school is and how fortunate our students are, I’m not sure that I want someone to see what I’m wearing and go, ‘Oh, [he/she] is one of THOSE kids.’ Don’t get me wrong, I love Latin, but I’m not comfortable with walking down the street in a bright orange jacket that seems to scream, ‘Look at the school I go to!’” So, maybe it’s not that we’re ashamed to go to Latin or that we don’t like our school, it’s just that we’re not used to the idea of public displays of pride.

        However, it seems that since last year, Latin has been revamping its displays of pride and spirit (much to the credit of Mr. Dunn and Mr. Graf), culminating in this year: our 125th anniversary. And even if we’re not suddenly glued to our orange and blue apparel, we’re definitely getting better and more used to the idea. As a community, we’ve made progress in our displays of enthusiasm and pride, as we experienced with the rousing ceremony we had to welcome in our freshmen to the upper school as well as things like Spirit Fridays.

I think what this year is really going to be all about is finding our identity as a proud and spirited community of students, faculty and staff, and learning how to feel comfortable in it. And while CTA buses tow around our advertisements of pride and our school gets plastered in large Latin Roman stickers, we can only hope that our spirit and pride deficit will die with the hospital that our school once looked like.