April 23: Sumus Primi

2016/04/23 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1653 the first public school in North America was founded.

The primacy of the Boston Latin School is echoed in its motto: Sumus Primi (“we are first”).  But it also underscores the nature of first things, in particular, the first things in education: namely, the Classics, which remain the foundation for the curriculum of the centuries-old institution.

The first classes were taught in the home of the master, until a purpose-built school house was built by the mid-1640s (above).  “Purpose built,” but, like most Colonial buildings for institutions (like buildings for governance, hospitals, and prisons), the basic architectural image was that of a house.  But this humble pile should not be seen as a dodgy shack, unfortunately selected to house the glorious traditions that its inmates studied by lamplight.  It too is expressive of the aim of what is still a  public school, one with the highest intellectual standards and, ideally, the widest social reach.

The little building stood until the early eighteenth century and was replaced by a new building to accommodate a growing student body in 1704.

Image: sepia from their website (from this source)

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