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ITHAKA ON THE HORIZON: A Greek-American Journey

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13 September 2006

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G

Stavros,

The situation with Greek language education has been hashed and hashed over the past four decades. There are entire masters and PhD theses on by some very bright and serious Greek American sociologists.

Here are some of the thoughts:

All immigrant groups to the US lost/are losing their native language. Certain groups do better. Greek Americans have advantages in: 1) an ethnic denomination making our religious institutions inherently ethnic (we share this phenomena with the Jews) 2) A history of diaspora.
Disadvantages: 1) the bulk of Greek immigrants came at a time of the most acute assimilationist trend (1920-30's). 2) Time. 3) Economies of scale

Also primary Greek language education, the Church "Greek Schools" in the US has been purview of, yeah, the Greek State.... uhh oh....

The Greek state for decades created the curriculum, teaching method and philosophy, the majority of the funding, and provision of instructors for this primary Greek language education.

Whenever the Greek State gets involved in the community there are problems. First it was the GAPA created to supplaint the AHEPA, with GAPA importing such nicities as the national schism and imploding -- thankfully before harming the organically American AHEPA. Lately they have "SAE" -- funded by the Greek state, administered by Greek law and Greek ministries and with absolutely no meaning in the community. In the early 1990s they injected huge amounts of money into the US Pan-Macedonian group, which did nothing at all in the US, and turned around and bit Greece on the ass by solely lobbying Athens to take a maximalist position on the Macedonian issue.

The Greek state also had a serious behind the scenes piece of the action in the absolutely disgusting ousting of Iakovos.

Now it isn't only about their motives, it is more that the Greek state, especially the ministries tasked to help, read exploit, the "omogenia (a completely inaccurate term anyway) has no idea at all as to what the Greek American community is.

On university level Modern Greek programs, I watched directly as people within the leadership of the MGSA (at the time some extreme leftists) destroyed the program I was in (the first accredited Modern Greek Studies degree program) for political reasons, fully supported by comrades across the sea. A decade later I helped a number of very wealthy Greek American individuals fund some university programs. If you look around the number of programs is increasing.

So I am optimistic about university level programs but am pessimistic on the primary level. One exception an experiment with of modern Greek language immersion charter schools in a handful of (inner) cities.

Stavros

I concur with your assessment of the Greek government's less than helpful role. The Greek American community needs to help itself and not rely on Greek bureaucrats to show us the way. They are largely responsible for the implosion of the Greek educational system.

Kids need to learn the language early, waiting until college is the wrong approach. My son who is a HS senior completed 9 credits of Modern Greek at the University of Southern Maine. Luckily he had the advantage of hearing the language at home, immersion in Greece during summers there and my wife who taught the Greek school at our Church. It all doable but we lack motivation. I remain optimistic that new technologies can help. Language and religion are the two pillars to maintaining a Hellenic identity.

I'm hearing that many Greek Studies programs
are not attracting enough students and that the emphasis now is to encourage existing departments to offer "related" courses rather than funding a separate department. Is that true?

Hermes

Something happened over here at a certain educational institution which I believe is very important. Particularly if it catches on elsewhere. They combined the schools of Classical and Modern Greek. Think about it?

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