Nationality: United States
Residence: Seattle, WA
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/12/2021
Primary Language: English
BACKGROUND: My informant, AC, was born in the US and attended boarding school in NH. As we were talking about our different high school customs, AC brought up our school’s initiation ceremony for everyone who took a classical language at the school.
CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation with my friend where we talked about our time at boarding school.
AC: –and also the Classics diplomas. The kids who could reach the highest level of Greek or Latin got those laurel crowns at graduation.
Me: And they graduated before everyone else.
AC: Right. I feel like, like they needed to incentive Latin because why would anyone take a dead language. [It] made all those classics students feel special.
THOUGHTS: I feel like academic institutions, especially prestigious ones, thrive on exclusivity. Our high school had many rituals — not just academic ones — in order to separate students from other students and put them in ranks. Although the classics diploma was created to celebrate students who completed four years of a difficult language, many students were upset that they were not given the same attention for completing equally difficult languages like Mandarin or Arabic. Students pointed to the fact that Latin and Greek were eurocentric languages and hence more celebrated than it’s counterparts. Regardless, based on the fact that the classical diploma students were first to walk the graduation stage and were physically separated from regular students, it’s clear that they had some sort of precedence.