Greek Education that makes us better Americans!
We devoted the last three covers of the magazine to education by showcasing three teachers from various generations and backgrounds. We did this because we believe education in general and Greek American education in particular find themselves in crisis, in the first case, and a few steps before extinction in the latter. New technologies have brought new opportunities, but also great challenges for any form of status quo, things that we used to take for granted aren’t taken for granted anymore and various sectors are facing the Darwinian dilemma of adaptation or death.
Greek education in America has been losing ground for some time: a number of great schools have closed in the past few years. Those still open–with the exception of St. Demetrios in Astoria–aren’t in great shape, either. George Papayannis, the Cathedral School principal whom we featured in April, resigned, the third principal to leave the school in four years. Sure, each institution faces its own challenges and there are peculiarities that have to do with personalities, mentalities and backstage politicking. One thing is certain though: Greek Education as it used to be and still is doesn’t “sell” anymore and in the present form is a thing of the past that has outlived its days.
Greek schools in America were built by immigrants with the aim to educate their kids in a way that could make them “compatible” with Greece. The dream of most of them was to go back one day and their children should have had the educational background to make the transition as smoothly as possible. Even today, the St. Demetrios School in Astoria Greek curriculum corresponds to the respective grade curriculum of the Greek public school system. This concept, not necessarily bad, is obsolete nowadays because the majority of Greeks that immigrated to the US stayed here and are four and five generations removed: many from mixed marriages with other ethnicities and religions. The Greek school system in America has hardly adapted to this reality and the kind of education it offers to Americans is still mostly Greece oriented.
That has to change if Greek education will have a future here. The aim shouldn’t be to prepare kids to live in Greece, but to make them BETTER AMERICANS through Hellenism! The “selling point” of our schools and educators to 2nd, 3rd and 4th generations Greek Americans must be the fact that by learning more about and embracing the Hellenic side of your identity you become a better human being, a better citizen, a better American.
Hellenism is an ecumenical concept, not confined within the borders of Greece and Cyprus. Our educational institutions must reflect that fact and be open to emerging realities that though bringing uneasiness and insecurity at first, offer new and unique opportunities for Greek language and culture to develop further and flourish. The present model has exhausted itself and the clock is ticking.
But enough about schools, it’s summer already! Enjoy fully and hopefully you will make it to Greece or Cyprus, of both because they still offer the best schooling when it comes to …Greekness! On my humble part, I’ve always been a good student and this year can’t be an exception. See you there!