Roman Spirit

Michael Gross “One of the best things of which a school can boast is a strong school spirit […] it means more than rooting loudly for the victorious team on the gridiron, or supporting with good wishes the advancement of any school cause. Real school spirit should cause [each student] to take a pride in his school and to desire its superiority to other schools in every way.” Aside from the mention of “the gridiron” (because everyone knows that Latin no longer has a football team), this quote could easily be mistaken for something Mr. Dunn promulgated at this year’s convocation. In fact, this is an excerpt from the 1902 edition of the Sigillum (the school’s yearbook at the time). The world 125 years ago was without a doubt different, but how much has our school really changed? Since I have only attended Latin for 3 out of its 125 years, I had to dig deep into the online Latin yearbook database dating back to 1901 in order to discover what the school was like in its early existence. Other than the football team and the fact that track and field was called gymnastics, Latin sports back in 1911 were basically the same as they are today – we  still had basketball, baseball, golf, and most importantly our intense rivalry with Parker. The Sigillum labeled Latin’s football victory over Parker to be “their most creditable accomplishment.” Today, as exhibited in the soccer game against Parker last week, the only difference is the sport being played. Similarly, the gymnastics team at Latin in the early 1900s is almost indistinguishable from today’s team with the obvious exceptions being the name of the sport and the slightly faster times (4.58 min. mile in 1904 vs. current record of 4.30 min mile). Sports and how they are played are bound to change, but in 125 years Latin’s commitment and passion towards its prized athletics certainly have not. In today’s Latin, the yearbook raises money from tribute pages purchased by students’ families, but back in 1905 the funds were raised by selling advertisements to local businesses including a horse-shoeing establishment specializing in road and coach horses,  and Chicago Telephone Company marketing the newly invented telephone. Currently, many students debate whether to take a divvy, public transportation, or to über a cab; back in the early 1900’s, there was really only one option: ride a horse. In the 21st century, we communicate with iPhones, iPads (really iAnything), and multiple social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, whereas over 100 years ago  people were deciding whether or not it was a good idea to have a telephone in their home. Regardless of the advancers in transportation or technology, peoples’ urge to get from point A to point B and desire to communicate has not been lost in time. Similar to the Forum, the Folio (Latin’s first school paper established in 1903) often faced challenges in producing each issue on a timely basis. While currently the challenges typically revolve around competing for staff writers’ time with all of their extracurricular activities and overwhelming amounts of homework, the obstacles back then were “the typewriters that wouldn’t type and an ornery printing press that at times decided not to print”.  While technology has made it easier for students to get their work completed, it has also led to an increase in the volume of work expected. Even with all the impediments and name changes, the Latin paper has continued to hold true to its founding mission of being “a representative paper, which should be the voice of its students, a pleasure and interest to them and their friends.” In more recent history, some of the current upper classmen have been at Latin for almost 15 years, and they have witnessed the school move forward on many fronts, while understanding that the underlying mission and values have remained in tact. Junior Grace Cummins reflected on the fact that “the values of kindness, manners, and civility preached in lower school have followed us to junior year and will continue to follow us for the rest of our lives.”  19th century French critic and journalist Jean-Baptist Alphonse Carr once said that “the more things change the more they stay the time”; and while the world around Latin has certainly changed dramatically over the past 125 years, the strong foundation laid during the early years of the school have enabled it to maintain and strengthen its mission and values throughout time.]]>