Detroit Latin: A Classical Town School

Our Founding Year Program

An Old Idea – The Classical Town School

No educational model has proven more durable or more successful than the Classical Town School. From the earliest colonial times until well into the twentieth century, some version of this school defined what it meant to grow up in these United States. In small villages and out across the great expanse of prairie and plains, many classical town schools were housed in primitive, one-room structures which, with a cupola and a bell, resembled little churches. In the bustling commercial centers and great cities, such schools, though generally starting small, often grew into major centers of liberal learning and scientific inquiry.

In 1816, just such a school was established in Detroit when Governor Lewis Cass invited a young Presbyterian minister to come to the Michigan Territory to organize a congregation. Fresh out of Princeton, John Monteith arrived well studied in French, Latin, Hebrew and Greek. An abolitionist, social activist and scholar of the first rank, he immediately set about to establish Detroit’s first library—now the Detroit Public Library—and a fine classical school which, with the help of Cass, Augustus Woodward and other leading citizens, became The University of Michigan.

Long before our system of “public” schools ever existed, such classical academies, with their commitment to both intellectual and moral formation, made the United States the land of opportunity for people from every corner of the earth. Those that remain—schools like Boston Latin, Roxbury Latin and New York City’s Collegiate School—continue to be the very best schools in the cities they serve.

A New Approach – The “Independent” Public School

Today, as Detroit transforms itself into a 21st century center of commerce and culture, its greatest challenge is to ensure that its children and youth have access to the kind of classical or liberal learning that has defined America’s best schools for more than three centuries—equipping graduates not only for gainful employment and acceptance into university, but for informed citizenship and global leadership.

To that end, on the 20th of November 2018, Detroit Schools Superintendent, Dr. Nikolai Vitti signed The Grant & Charter of The Detroit Latin School, creating a school like no other for the City of Detroit.

As a Detroit Public School, LATIN will receive full public support and be held accountable for measurable student outcomes and faithful stewardship of the funds it receives. As an independent not-for-profit institution, LATIN will be led by a gifted Head of School and distinguished faculty appointed by and accountable to its own Board of Governors. Like the University of Michigan and other so-called “Public Ivies,” it will be a true public/private partnership. The baseline funding it receives as a Detroit Public School will be supplemented by significant private sector engagement and support.

As a school of choice within the DPSCD, Detroit Latin will combine excellence and access as few other schools can. From the day it opens, Detroit Latin will raise the academic bar for primary and secondary education within the city and region. Its dual emphasis on enriched literature-based learning and advanced opportunities in science and technology will create one of the nation’s most challenging college preparatory regimes. Its programs in formal logic and rhetoric will be unparalleled. Its level of academic seriousness, combined with its comprehensive offerings in visual and performing arts and robust programs in wellness and sport, will make LATIN an exciting new option for many Detroit families.

The establishment of The Detroit Latin School is all about providing an educational opportunity comparable to the best suburban public and the most selective independent schools, tuition-free, to families throughout the city and beyond. For too many years too many families have felt the need to flee the City or send their children to neighboring towns to obtain a quality education. With the opening of The Detroit Latin School, those who live in the City will have one more good reason to stay and those live outside the City will have one more good reason to come, put down roots, raise their family and create their own version of the American Dream.