Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Landon School, Latin & Virtue

In the light of the multitude of scandals that have hit Landon School from the SAT cheating that took place in the years after 9-11 to the recent drafting of the girls as sex objects by the school's privileged boys, it's interesting to look at the Landon's School motto, Virtute Et Non Vi, which they translate as "By Virtue,  not  by Force."

The Latin root here, though, really means manly,  as you can see in that it also shows up in the related word virility, and the association with goodness comes from an earlier age when manliness was considered a good in and of itself, i.e., a time such as in the Middle Ages when the privileged young males considered fighting and procreating - and, notably lacking at Landon, chivalry towards women - as the marks of a good knight, knights being the ultimate privileged young males.

The irony of the motto's root meaning, given the unchivalrous treatment of the female students and the tragic death of one of the Virginia Female Lacrosse player at the hands of a Landon lacrosse playing alum seems completely lost on the Landon School's administration as a look at their website makes clear.

Landon School

The word Character is posted over the picture of a Lacrosse Player.   It's hard to imagine a more archetypical image of white male privilege.   (Full disclosure: I played lacrosse at a public high school in Northern Virginia, not far from Landon before attending Yale College.)  It is as if the Duke of Wellington came back from that Great Eton Playing Field in the Sky to affirm athletic prowess as the ultimate test of a boy's character.  Of course the Battle of Waterloo may have been won on the playing fields of Eton, but the athletes on the playing fields of Eton are not headed for the battle fields of Afghanistan.

Perhaps given that the boys of Landon are now better known for cheating on the SATs and drafting local girls as sexual playmates, it's time for the administration to seek a new motto, one less redolent of virility.  How do you translate, By your fruits you shall be known into Latin.

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