An ambitious new Southwest Philadelphia charter school uses an ancient language as a formula for learning.
Hardy garnered petitions--"we had more than 900. Most from Southwest Philly, but some from as far as New York and Washington, D.C." He then asked if he could address the School Reform Commission.
He mustered a small army of supporters, including Jeanne Allen from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform (which advocates for charter schools and school-choice programs); state Sen. Anthony Williams; state Rep. Dwight Evans, who is head of the appropriations committee; and speaker of the Pennsylvania House John Perzel. The School Reform Commission blinked first, and gave him a chance to redo the charter application.
Hardy reapplied, and on June 26, 2006, almost a year after he filed the first application, he had his school.
Back in Latin class, Sara Flounders is trying to get her students to take her quiz by repeating the same phrases.
"Gentlemen, please take your seats!"
"Gentlemen, I expect you to be silent."
After a minute and a half, finally, there's silence.
But moments later, noise erupts again and Flounders starts handing out demerits. Shock and disbelief abounds.
Back to her lesson, Flounders writes on the board, "ibi," "cras," "umbra."
Basic Latin words, but her students beg for time, hoping to wrest the words from the recesses of their brains. A familiar scene for anyone who once took Latin.
As Flounders collects her students' papers, one starts tap dancing at his desk, pumping his arms to his chest when she turns her back. Another student opens his textbook, flips it over and balances the whole thing on his head.
The quiz has done nothing to dampen spirits.
Pencils tap, teeth click and demerits fly like errant paper planes.
David Hardy says he doesn't like neighborhood schools, because if you "live in a bad neighborhood you get a bad education."
Where else, he asks, but in the inner city can you not expel a kid? Public schools put kids in shackles, he says, creating cyclical environments from which there's no escape.
At Boys' Latin, the emphasis is on breaking the cycle of failure. Students wear khaki pants, blazers, light blue shirts, red-and-black-striped ties and black leather shoes. They carry school-authorized book bags.
They also carry a school handbook and ID at all times. Demerits are issued for breaking any number of rules, and they can lead to detentions and suspensions. Think Catholic school without contrition.