Dead language makes these Bronx children alive.
Students in the Classic Charter School are all taught Latin – and more than a quarter of the network kids scored the highest score on the recent national exams on the ancient tongue.
“When we were founded almost 15 years ago, we set out to offer children in the South Bronx something they had never had before,” said the founder of the Lester Long network.
“We want to offer Latin, give them world-class education rooted in classics. As this extraordinary national score shows, we achieve that goal. “
The results of the Latin National Examination, released in May, showed that 34 out of 120 Bronx Classical students in grades 6, 7 and 8 who took the test were recognized for having received the highest score.
Eleven in grades 6 and 7 received certificates of extraordinary achievement, having received scores of 36 to 40 out of a possible 40.
In addition to Latin, the Bronx Classic children – numbering 1,000 in four schools – are also immersed in subjects that are rapidly disappearing from American education, including debate, philosophy, and rhetoric.
While they initially questioned the devotion of time to a past language, the network teacher said students were immediately absorbed in the distant world of Aristotle and Plato.
Teacher Chris Perednia said children – especially Spanish speakers – were stunned to see the direct relationship of their native language with the gladiatorial era and the Roman Coliseum.
“Initially we introduced the stories and adventures of the gods, and that made them interested, hearing about Zeus and Hera,” he said. “And then they began to see how their world was connected back to that time. They become invested in it. “
Students are interested in discovering the origins of Latin from many modern languages and quickly feeling the newfound strength in their deep linguistic understanding.
Hikma Umar’s parents from The Bronx said that her 7th grade son would suddenly begin to identify Latin roots at the dinner table after a few years in the Classical Bronx.
“He really likes language and reading,” he said. “When we all watch TV he will be in his room reading. He is more interested in that.”
While many children are becoming increasingly dependent on emojis, Long says that Bronx Classic students – about 90 percent of whom get free lunches or discounts, common poverty markers – try to rule the floor with refined phrases or arguments that can’t be penetrated.
The only allowed intimidation must occur within the limits of rhetoric and reason.
“There is something beautiful, something strong in strong communication skills,” Long said. “These children feel it and they go alone.
Distance learning is quite difficult in English, but Long said his school successfully made the transition after the coronavirus crisis shut down K-8 networked schools.
To add to their experience, Class 8 Bronx class students usually board a flight to Rome to look at the subject of their special subjects closely.
This year’s graduation class cannot travel because of the coronavirus but is considering a reunion trip there in the future.
“That brings everything together,” Perednia said. “There was a very special moment when they finally saw things they had read and studied for years like the Coliseum. It has an impact that I think has remained with them for a long time. “