Brooklyn Latin School (delayed posting)

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Mar 27 11:37:03 UTC 2009

February 26, 2006

A New School in Brooklyn: A Bit of Boston, a Lot of Rome

Jason Griffiths stopped short of announcing that scientia est potentia
— knowledge is power — when he spoke to a small audience the other
night in the auditorium of Public School 147 in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He
did, however, paint a vivid picture of what will be known as the
Brooklyn Latin School, a new high school that will open in the fall on
the top floor of P.S. 147, on Bushwick Avenue. The new school is
designed to replicate the Boston Latin School, which was founded in
1635 and counts Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Ralph Waldo
Emerson among many distinguished alumni.

At Brooklyn Latin, which will have room for 800 students and will base
admission on grades and competitive exams, the curriculum will focus
on classics and the humanities. Students will lead question-and-answer
discussions in the Socratic method, and, as at the school's Boston
predecessor, every student must pass four years of Latin. "It takes
discipline to excel in Latin," Mr. Griffiths told his audience, "and
that translates to other areas." The school, one of seven new
specialized high schools announced this month by the city's Department
of Education, is the brainchild of John Elwell, the president of a
nonprofit organization called Replications. He has founded 21 other
schools in the city inspired by successful institutions elsewhere.

When a city Department of Education official approached him last
spring about creating a new selective high school, he first considered
replicating a prestigious public high school like Stuyvesant. Then Dr.
Elwell recalled Boston Latin and thought: "That's a great school.
Let's make another one." Starting in March, Mr. Griffiths, who holds a
doctorate from Columbia University Teachers College, will spend three
months at Boston Latin under the guidance of the headmaster, Cornelia
Kelley. Although Dr. Elwell told parents at the meeting that the
admission criteria would be stringent, some parents were clearly
visualizing their offspring as little Ciceros.

Angel Deliz, a Park Slope father, says he will encourage his daughter,
Anjelica, an eighth-grader at Sunset Park Prep, to apply for
admission. How did he think Anjelica would fare with the rigors of an
ancient language? "She's my daughter," he replied. "She'll excel at
it, of course."


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at


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