"Tantum eruditi sunt liberi."
It's a Latin axiom from the ancient Roman period written about 50 A.D. by Epictetus, a philosopher enslaved in Greece by Rome's conquering armies.
Know what it means?
Most people would be stumped by this high-minded slogan from the classical world, but students and educators in the Stratford public schools had better find out fast.
It's the school system's new motto, unanimously approved Monday night by the Board of Education.
"I think some of our Latin students might know what it means or could figure it out," said board Co-Chairman Tom Malloy. "That's part of the challenge, for them to figure it out."
But, Malloy said, officials plan to print the new motto in both the original Latin and an English translation on school board letterhead, publications and other as-yet-undetermined printed materials, as well as the front of the annual education budget proposal.
Malloy said while it is "very unusual" to adopt and print Latin mottoes for public school systems, "it's done all the time at the higher levels of education and government."
Malloy said while he preferred using the motto in Latin only, "I think my colleagues on the school board feel it makes more sense to provide people with the translation."
While it won't ease the annual education budget problems or help improve students' grades or calm the controversies over fixing school properties, Malloy said he believes it will spark school spirit and even encourage a growing interest in Latin by students. Malloy said with four Latin classes at Bunnell High School, and two new classes this year at Stratford High, "There has been a resurgence in interest in the ancient language among young people. Having a Latin motto can only further that trend.
"Young people are becoming more interested in the roots of our language, and at least half if not more derives from Latin," he said.
If you haven't figured it out yet, the new motto means "Only the Educated Are Free."
Supt. of Schools Irene Cornish said having an official school system motto could "instill a feeling of pride as well as the value of education in students, teachers and administrators. "This motto is particularly appropriate at this time given how crucial education is in our global society," Cornish said.
Malloy agreed, adding, "It's amazing you can go back to ancient times and find writings like this one that are universal and timeless, still so perfectly in tune with the 21st century."
School Board Vice Chairman Robert David praised Malloy for suggesting the idea.
"I love that the motto is Latin," David said. "It's a great idea that will boost morale and encourage school spirit."