The Latin Way is our school culture, as central to the school as our curriculum and pedagogy.

It is both who we are and who we strive to be.

In our 16th year, Washington Latin faced two significant changes: a new campus was to open and new leadership was at the helm of our original campus. These changes were long-planned and exciting, but also challenging. Could the school’s educational model and culture bend and stretch with this growth and change? We knew it must. The question was how.

Washington Latin was fortunate to have the support and partnership of the Charter School Growth Fund, a key partner in our expansion, in imagining and then executing a yearlong process to identify, describe, and distill the values that define our school culture in order to deepen and thicken it through change. With the support of CSGF, we tapped the mind of Principal Emerita Diana Smith to lead this work with our leadership, faculty, and community, working in close collaboration with a team of experts in change management, design, and filmography. We first held a mirror to the culture of our existing campus and asked our community to consider this essential question: what describes the lived reality of our culture?

The result is The Latin Way, a set of four principles that are both a description of our culture and the ideals to which we aspire. Each principle is accompanied by an icon, an image crafted to represent the principle and, we hope, will come to hold the deeper meaning of that principle. Each principle of The Latin Way is further depicted through a teaching film created by Tectonic Video, designed most particularly for new faculty to understand how to understand our culture. Together these materials help us reflect The Latin Way and in so doing to strengthen it, so that our school can continue to offer our unique brand of classical yet modern education.

Classical Education for the Modern World: A Purposeful Tension

We believe in the uplifting and liberating power of our classical education for all learners.


The academic and social experiences we strive to create at Washington Latin are in service of this freedom – freedom that allows our students to be at once disciplined and flexible in thought and action; freedom that allows them to fully embrace the humanity of others as well as their own; and the freedom that gives them the tools to identify and experience all that is good, true and beautiful in the world around them.

Inherent in our school’s design is a purposeful tension between the ideals of the classical approach to education and the mindset of the modern times in which we live. We embrace this tension deliberately, recognizing the application of the classical approach to a modern audience will necessarily mean an intellectual give-and-take. We aim neither to impose outdated views on a modern audience nor to honor modern views solely for their familiarity and comfort. 

From the classical tradition, we honor the emphasis on transcendent ideas, the concept of shared humanity, a commitment to courageous inquiry, and a dedication to the moral development of the young. From the modern era, we embrace the belief that all people, regardless of age, race, gender, or background, can walk a path towards enlightenment. We honor the modern era’s emphasis on a diversity of perspectives. 

What follows are four cultural principles that underlie all our work as an educational community – The Latin Way.

Fall in Love with Enduring Ideas

Our education is an invitation to fall in love with deep, enduring ideas – Truth, Beauty and Goodness – and so to be changed. We believe that education should be transformational, involving both mind and heart; at their union character develops. Our curriculum introduces students to truths beyond their context yet within their grasp; our pedagogy of questioning opens ideas to critique and encourages students to wrestle with timeless ideas to make them their own.

Seek the Conversation

Words matter and we teach students to use them with care. Our school is built for conversation, and we aim for students to embrace the idea that many perspectives and voices are the means to a richer learning experience for all. We believe that a true education sparks discussion and provokes thought; conversations – with each other and with the thinkers of the past and present – are the crucible for all learning. The exchange of ideas is a moral act: it catalyzes the character development of the speaker and the listener, calling on both to be reasonable, informed, and flexible in their opinions.

Trust Courageously

Our school is built on relationships rather than hierarchy – trust is at the heart of everything. We courageously trust each other to do good in the world. As teachers, we trust ourselves to do right by our students and by each other. We trust our students and give them the freedom to be courageous themselves – to try, to make mistakes, and to realize over time how to direct their own paths.

Serve the Common Good

Non nobis solum nati sumus. We are not born for ourselves alone.

We believe education is the path to a fuller humanity, only possible when we weave ourselves into a tapestry broader than our own individual interests. Our school aims for students to understand and celebrate our shared humanity, so that they can see themselves as both individuals and as part of a whole. Ultimately education’s greatest purpose is to guide our students in their development as citizens committed to contributing to the common good.

Join the conversation!

In the spirit of seeking the conversation, we offer two ways to engage with these principles of The Latin Way – and each other. Our extended Latin community is invited to join online discussions of each principle, led by Diana Smith, Chief of Classical Education. These are offered throughout the 2022-23 school year:

  • Virtual Discussion – A Classical Education for the Modern World – A Purposeful Tension – Monday, November 14 @ 7:00 pm (via Zoom). Watch the recording.
  • Classical Reading Seminar – In person discussion, Monday, December 12 @ 6:45 pm in the Diana E. Smith Library, 2nd Street Campus.
  • Virtual Discussion – Fall in Love with Enduring Ideas – Monday, January 9 @ 6:45 pm (via Zoom). Watch the recording.
  • Classical Reading Seminar – In person discussion, Monday, January 23 @ 6:45 pm at the Anna Julia Cooper Campus.
  • Virtual Discussion – Seek the Conversation – Thursday, February 16 @ 6:45 pm (via Zoom). Watch the recording.
  • Classical Reading Seminar – In person discussion, Monday, February 27 @ 6:45 pm in the Diana E. Smith Library, 2nd Street Campus.
  • Virtual Discussion – Trust Courageously – Thursday, March 9 @ 6:45 pm (via Zoom). Watch the recording.
  • Classical Reading Seminar – In person discussion, Monday, March 20 @ 6:45 pm at the Anna Julia Cooper Campus.
  • Virtual Discussion – Serve the Common Good – Thursday, April 20 @ 6:45 pm (via Zoom).