ARTICLE: "Survival of Hellenic Heritage &Culture through Education" by Dean C.Lomis, PhD
Prologue When asked how much educated men were superior to uneducated, Aristotle replied: "As much as the living are to the dead." Euripides advocated: "Who so neglects learning in his youth, loses past and is dead for the future." Diogenes used to say: "Only the educated are free." The ancient Greek poet Pindar advised: "That which is silent dies." Benjamin Franklin promoted that "The good education of youth has been esteemed by wise men in all ages as the surest foundation of happiness." The famous educator Maria Montessori maintained that "The unknown that can help humanity is that which is hidden in a child." Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Papadakos remarked recently: "The Greek American is doing away with the Greek language and culture [and thereby its heritage] (in America) in one generation, which the Turks could not do in over 400 years of occupation, intimidation and extermination." Introduction The concern that we are losing our youth from our Hellenic heritage And culture is now a major reality. Unlike yesteryear, the vast majority of Greek American youth today falls in the negative of all the aforementioned, With regard to Hellenic heritage and culture. Young Greek Americans may certainly identify as being "Greek," but if asked what this means the Vast majority would not be able to explain. Just like being "American" is not only hot dog and apple pie, baseball and coca cola, likewise being "Greek" is not only feta and souvlaki, baklava and syrtaki. Yet, very little is being promoted as innovative and creative programs toward reversing the trend. Currently, the second and third, and even fourth, generations of Greek Americans who comprehend the dilemma, but who desire to maintain and improve Hellenism for their off-springs, find themselves at a loss on what to do. Some try to bring pre-school children together to watch Greek video tapes and listen to Greek children songs; some make a valiant effort to speak some Greek at home; some considerr establishing nurseries at theirlocal Hellenic community center -- something a number of communities do and should be encouraged to continue; and, some are thinking or planning other initiatives. All these efforts or considerations are certainly to be commended. However, unless some serious national program is developed so that the emphasis will be united and extended, all the aforementioned as good as they may be and as well-meaning as they may be -- will only be band-aid approaches. Fairly recently, the Greek Government offered its views on the Concern of paideia for the omogeneia but, aside from the fact that it seems to Be politically motivated, it is too little and too late. What the Greeks Are proposing would have been beneficial a generation-or-two ago. Its Current offerings are at least somewhat anachronistic. Basically, the Greek Government=92s proposed solutions stem from a consideration of the PASOK Regional Committee in the United States, organized by its "Andreas Papandreou" Institute of Strategic and Promoting Studies, in cooperation with PASOK=92s section for the Greeks of the Diaspora. The eleven-points proposal is as follows, followed by my comments: 1) Development of a bilateral educational agreement between Greece and the United States. Comment: This cannot happen because "education" in the United States is, constitutionally, the explicit prerogative of each of the fifty states. 2) The Greek Ministry of Education to take the initiative and come in contact with "all the elements of the Omogeneia -- Archdiocese, education,and parents." Comment: Although the Greek Government may be able to come in=20 contact with the Archdiocese, it is not understood what is meant by "to=20 come in contact with education," and will be nearly impossible to contact the parents and more difficult to convince them. 3) Immediate staffing of the Greek consulates throughout America with education experts... Comment: The Greek Embassy and consulates have not done much in the past, as they should have done when spirits were running high. Time and again, communities have asked for visitors from the Embassy or the consulates but, except for the larger metropolitan areas in proximity to the consulates, requests have been hardly fulfilled. Now that the Greek American communities have become American Hellenic societies, they need more of their own to preach "Hellenism," not so much those who -- very unfortunately -- are considered by the young "not as their own." Greek Embassy and consular personnel should begin visiting our communities=20 very often, initially as low profile visitors until the youth is [re]Hellenized, from which time they should be more effective. 4) Evaluation of current educators, development of educational programs in the United States and in Greece, and assignment of new educators with bilingual capability to the large metropolitan centers (New York, Chicago,Los Angeles) and wherever else there is shortage of such educators. Comment: The Greek system cannot really evaluate current educators who are either Americans of Greek descent or Greek Americans long- established in the United States, and most likely with children born in America, thereby understanding the needs of their American Hellenic communities best. In addition, sending "bilingual" teachers, who learned English as a "foreign language" -- and British English at that -- to teach Greek as a "foreign language," rather than having been trained to teach Greek as a "second language," will not suffice. 5) Evaluation of available [educational] materials (books), and=20 authorship of new ones based on bilingual teaching (English/Greek). Comment: The Greek language in Greece has had such enormous changes that it is very confusing and, very difficult now, for the Diaspora to comprehend. For young pupils being taught a different form than that used at home by parents and grandparents becomes disastrous. In addition, the "new" Greek language has distanced -- if not divorced itself even further from the ancient and ecclesiastical Greek. This is quite detrimental to "Hellenes" who are proud of their heritage. This in itself is a big divide between Helladic Greeks and American Hellenes. 6) Development of incentives for the learning of the Greek language. Admission of 5-6 Greek American students to Greek medical schools each year. Comment: A generation ago, when it was so very difficult to enter U.S. medical schools, this approach could have been a good incentive; in fact,there are several Greek American students who took such opportunities without a formalized program. Today, however, with applications to medical schools nearly fifty per cent down, the incentive would not be considered too inviting. 7) Development of hospitality programs between America and Greece. Comment: No description of programs is offered in order to consider applicability. In addition, however, certain thoughts in regard to this issue have been formulated in America. Yet, while nothing concrete had been developed to date, there are at least a couple of feasible ideas that have been proposed to AHEPA. 8) Intervention in the Omogeneia for cultural programs (dance, music,theater). Comment: The term "intervention" is not one that would be readily acceptable to the Omogeneia. Besides, the Omogeneia, for its own sake, does produce "dances, music and theater." What is really needed is for Greek troupes to visit the United States annually, performing in several large metropolitan areas across the United States, not for Greek Americans alone, but even more so for the general "American" public, whose successful performances will be highlighted in the American media and will bring much needed pride to American Hellenes. In fact, Greek American youth troupes should be reciprocating with programs in Greece. 9) Development of programs for learning the Greek language through the Internet, a medium of reaching even the remote areas of the U.S.A. Comment: The same concern provided in item five would apply here also, that is the Greek language in Greece has had such enormous changes that it has become very confusing for the parents to guide their children. 10) Transmission of educational programs through the Greek national television (NET) to America, which today operates throughout the American continent. Comment: With the exception of several Greek-born parents who have installed satellite dishes to capture programs from Greece, very few U.S.- born parents invest in this. In order for this to succeed, the young must first become interested in "things Greek." 11) Publication of newsletter toward awareness of parents for the value and need for learning the Greek language. Comment: The American Hellenic community is already aware of both the value and the need for their children to learn Greek -- at least many of them do. The indication of this is in their attempts to come up with relevant programs. If the American Hellenic community were not aware, Greek language afternoon schools would not continue to exist, as inadequate as they may be for the long run. The concern of interested parents is not awareness for the value and the need of the Greek language, but of the lack of long-term, meaningful programs. That Greece must be a contributing partner to the development of Greek heritage and culture studies in the United States, let there be no doubt.However, the ideas must come from America on what our needs are, with Greece supporting the American Hellenic needs and ideas. First of all, all eleven proposed points of the Helladic viewpoint concentrate mostly on language learning. Although this is indeed very important, it will not succeed without the feeling of "Greekness." Thus, it is important for the young to learn their Hellenic character in order to be enthused about learning the language. What is urgently needed, therefore, is a program that will include collectively language, history, religion and culture which encompass our Hellenic heritage. Let us now take a look at the concern for Greek language, history, religion and culture from the Hellenic point of view in America, and what we may think or believe could be accomplished, with Greece=92s help, of=20 course. The Issue Our Hellenic American communities are experiencing serious Difficulties with upper high school and college level Greek Americans attending church, maintaining their Greek language and Hellenic heritage and culture, and remaining in the community, including marriage, after completion of their formal education. Since times have changed, indeed, it is no longer necessary to "Americanize" a "Greek immigrant community." AHEPA did a masterful job on this -- perhaps even too good for, as Delaware Senior Senator -- a strong philhellene -- has said, "Stop trying to be super Americans." Rather, the task now is to "[re]Hellenize" an "American society of Greek descent." The Need Considering the present situation both a challenge and an opportunity, a need is clearly apparent for innovative and creative means to provide new approaches of relevance for interest to the young, beyond the well meaning but "band-aid" attempts. In an increasingly interdependent world, the maintenance of the language, religion, heritage and culture of our fathers and forefathers is paramount to the continuity of our communities, and to the best interests of our country, the United States, in bilateral terms with our country of ancestry, Greece. The events of September 11, 2001 certainly attest to this when over 4,000 victims from 85 countries, most from the United States, but also 30 Greek Americans and 20 Helladic Greeks, perished in the terrorist attack. There is a huge need, therefore, for our young to learn the Greek culturenand maintain their heritage for their own "quality of life," and in promoting and maintaining the Hellenic spirit and ideals upon which our Founding Fathers developed and established this "empire of reason" based on the "age of reason" of the ancient Greeks. The Objective The objective of an "education" plan for the survival of our Hellenic heritage and culture that I will present is at least six-fold: to the benefit of our future generations and their families; to our Greek Orthodox Church; to our Hellenic communities; to the organization(s) which will decide to support it; to Hellenic College, if it accepts the challenge and the opportunity to promote it; and, of course, to our ancestral land of Greece. The Benefits The benefits of this proposed plan are perhaps endless: for the young: the opportunity to begin their higher education at an earlier age, thereby developing an earlier reality of the need and understanding of higher education; for the parents: the satisfaction that a "structured" national program is operating, which also provides financial savings; for our Greek Orthodox Church: the providing of needed services and, in turn, to Receive greater youth attendance; for our Hellenic communities: greater participation and involvement; for our organizations: relevance; for our Greek evening schools: meaningfulness as preparatory for advanced study; for Hellenic College: the opportunity to lead the effort and become the focal center of our youth=92s education; and, for Greece: renewed and strengthened bonds. Let us not fool ourselves. Young Greek Americans do not share any bonds with young Helladic Greeks. A very good example is our college campuses. Very few Greek American students socialize with students from Greece. Even among themselves, Greek Americans do not make the sustained effort from day one on campus -- as we did -- to meet other Greek students from the U.S. or Greece. Meetings are usually accidental. The Procedure A. Structure 1. Hellenic College be contacted, influenced and supported in developing an "Extension Division," and establish the position of "Dean" as the Division administrative officer. a. Under the Dean=92s guidance and leadership. each and every Hellenic community across our nation establish an extension program to offer a uniform curriculum of college-level courses for high-school students, and others who may wish to enroll. b. Each community, under the supervision of the parish council,recruit teaching faculty from its own parishioners and from local colleges and universities, who meet Hellenic College criteria, all of whom to be offered "adjunct" professorial positions with the College. 2. The "Extension Division" curriculum be as follows (based on high school academic terms but for college credit). Freshman Year Fall semester: Elementary Modern Greek I (3 college credits) This course will be very elementary, to some extent a review for those with Greek evening school background. Also, it would teach the grammatical structure of the language in the very manner that foreign languages are taught in our colleges and universities. Included will be information on how the Greek language has influenced the West and the English language, beginning by showing that of the 26 letters in the English alphabet, 16 are derived directly from the Greek in the capitals form. Spring semester: Elementary Modern Greek II (3college credits) A continuity of the first, this course will provide the students with The opportunity to construct simple sentences, begin to read, and converse On basic levels. Included, will be information on how much the Greek language has influenced western and the English language, as the students will begin to realize the plethora of words in the English language derived from the Greek. Sophomore Year Fall semester: Intermediate Modern Greek I (3 college credits) This course will expand on the grammar, moving also into simple syntax, and showing to the students that over 25% of the English language derives from the Greek (of the 166,724 words in The Webster International Dictionary, 41,214 [25%] are Greek in origin), if we add the words with Greek prefixes and suffixes the percentage rises considerably, and if we add the Latin words derived from the Greek the percentage rises significantly. Spring semester:Intermediate Modern Greek II (3college credits) This course will solidify the working knowledge of the language, and Will be indicative to the students that comprehension of the meaning of Greek language strengthens also their English language capacity. Junior Year Fall semester: History of Ancient Greece (3 college credits) This course will offer in-depth knowledge of not only the heroics but more so of the significance of ancient Greece. This course will solidify their knowledge in that the storylike [paramythenoi] characters they heard in- passing at Greek evening school or at home, or to some minor extent in their American middle school classes, were indeed real, and were the precursors of our democracy. In addition, they will learn of the importance of the wars with and victories over the Persians in preserving the birth of Western civilization of which our own nation is now a part. Spring semester: History of Modern Greece (3 college credits) This course will show the importance of Byzantium as the guiding light Of Western civilization through the Dark Ages, how the Greeks maintained That Greek spirit during the course of the 400 years of Tourkokratia, the significance of the Greek Revolution and Independence, and Greek relevance in the world today through its significance in the preservation of Western civilization by its heroic stand in World War II. Senior Year Fall semester: The American Hellenic Society (3 college credits) This course will offer insights of the Greek American experience Throughout the ages from the discovery of America to the present. Students will be both fascinated and enthused to learn that: from the time of Columbus the Greek element was present in the New World; about the first Greek settlement in St. Augustine, Florida; that Americans went to fight in the Greek War of Independence because they felt so highly for Greece; that in the development of America, Greeks played significant roles, from workers building the transcontinental railroad, to being professors at esteemed institutions like Harvard; that Greek Americans held high positions of esteem,like the Greek American Commandant of the Naval Academy in the second half of the 19th Century; that the first Greek American -- and Greek-born at that -- U.S. Congressman came from Wisconsin in the third quarter of the 19th Century; that the United States organized the Greek American=20 Battalion which eventually fought gallantly and was highly decorated by the French government for its valiant contribution in World War II in France;how U.S. Major General Gus Pagonis, when ordered by General Colin Powel to develop a supply plan for Desert Shield on Iraq in 1990 he Applied the plan Alexander the Great used in his march through Asia; and so much more. They will be impressed that not all Greeks were restauranteurs, not that there is anything wrong with the honest work of restauranteurs. In fact, they might learn that after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, when our policy makers were doing nothing because there was not much outcry from an otherwise unaware American public, the Greek restaurateurs shut down their restaurants one Monday in downtown Chicago to the confusion of the public, which was educated on that day outside the closed restaurants and did pressure their Senator Percy who ultimately supported the Greek cause in Washington. Spring semester: Orthodoxy in the Americas (3 credits) Not to be taught as evangelical, this course will give the background of Orthodoxy as a religion in the sociological sense, and will explain how It is conducted in America, and how it is tied with Greece and with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. Post-high school - Pre-college Summer A six-week, two-course summer program at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, considered the best Greek higher education institution for teaching Greek to "foreigners." The curriculum: Introduction to Ancient Greek (3 college credits) Advanced Modern Greek (3 college credits) The ancient Greek course to be taught 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and the Modern Greek course 9:30a.m. to 11:00 a.m., daily, the latter followed by "laboratory" experience of each student assigned from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to a local store in order to be in daily conversational contact with the people, using the language directly. B. Curriculum Distribution 1. The four semesters of elementary and intermediate Modern Greek will satisfy the two-year, twelve credits foreign language requirement of any U.S. college or university. 2. The two semesters of history will satisfy the one-year, six-credits social science requirement of any U.S. college or university. 3. The two semesters of community life and religion will satisfy the one-year, six-credits humanities requirement of any U.S. college or university. 4. The two "summer-study-in-Greece" courses will satisfy group or elective requirements of any U.S. college of university. C. Adjunct Faculty "Recruitment" 1. Each community be required and expected to "recruit" potential teaching faculty for approval and appointment as "adjunct" faculty by Hellenic College. 2. With regard to faculty for Modern Greek instruction, each community has individuals well-educated in Greece who can teach college-level elementary and intermediate Modern Greek, especially under existing or to-be-developed Hellenic College guidelines. 3. For instruction of Ancient Greek History, a professor of ancient Greek history from a local college or university should be recruited. Practically every U.S. college and university offers at least one course In ancient Greek history. And, since this professor most likely will be a non-Greek American, it will be a pride-building technique for the students. 4. For instruction of Modern Greek History, reliance would be placed once again on Greece-educated persons who meet Hellenic College requirements, and who will teach in accordance with existing or to-be- developed Hellenic College guidelines. 5. The American Hellenic Society course can be taught by a Greek American professor or teacher meeting the requirements of Hellenic College. In fact, in order to adequately prepare selected faculty to teach this course, and perhaps even others, Hellenic College should conduct a week-to-two intensive preparatory summer course on its campus. 6. It should be without saying that the course of Orthodoxy in the Americas should be taught by the local priest. 7. The post-high school - pre-college summer study in Thessaloniki should be conducted as a "study abroad" program, with the six college credits automatically transferable to Hellenic College. D. Tuition & Expenses 1. Tuition be assessed at $300 per course, excluding the "summer study" in Thessaloniki, where tuition will be paid directly to the Aristotelian University. A $100 one-time "admission fee" be assessed when the Student registers for the first time. All fees should be made payable to Hellenic College. In this manner, parents of students who complete the equivalent of one-year college study will have spent a total of about $3,000, rather than nearly $30,000 otherwise required. 2. Hellenic College would keep 50% of the tuition income. All other income, such as "admission fee" and "transfer fees" (explained below) be kept by Hellenic College for its administrative charges. The remaining 50% of the tuition income be distributed as follows: 10% to the local parish for expenses in the holding of classes, and 40% for the instructors. E. College Credit 1. All courses be accumulated as "college credit" toward an eventual degree from Hellenic College. Students who complete high school and decide to continue their studies at Hellenic College, would commence their studies with an initial accumulation of thirty (30) semester credits, the equivalent of one year of tertiary education. 2. High school graduates who wish to attend a college or university other than Hellenic College would request from Hellenic College a transcript for the purpose of transfer to be sent directly to the institution(s) to which the student is applying. A $25 "transcript fee" be assessed per institution for this service. Success Success of the novel plan proposed should be considered likely,=20 provided that a "Dean" of an "Extension Division" be appointed to administer the program, and the benefits of the program be addressed to the communities. Results The successful implementation and operation of this proposed plan should have numerous positive results. For one, the plan should induce spirit and enthusiasm to all members of the Greek Orthodox communities for the generations to follow. For a second, it should provide for the general education of the Greek language, the culture and heritage passed on to us by our predecessors, and the knowledge of our Hellenic society and Orthodox religion. For a third, it should create new interest, participation, involvement and advocacy for our culture and heritage, community and faith.For a fourth, it should be of considerable financial interest and asssistance in these and in future times of high educational costs. For a fifth, it should be of added interest in shortening college education by one year, a financial savings in itself, and in entering the work place one year sooner,thereby begin producing income one year sooner. For a sixth, it should provide a new impetus to our American Hellenic Society on the significance and importance of its existence. For a seventh, it should prepare our youth to be more adequately equipped to enter the ever-expanding multicultural world of today and tomorrow. For an eighth, it should prepare our young to be better educated individuals for all the benefits that better education provides. For a ninth, no matter what the ultimate major field of study, each student completing the thirty-credit credit curriculum may qualify for minor in Hellenic studies. And, for a tenth, it should make Greek evening schools of elementary grades more relevant as preparatory for the "Hellenic studies" college-credit program while in high school. A definite added advantage will be the newly-developed bonds that young Greek Americans will establish with the country of our ancestry, knowing and feeling their "Hellenism." The Purpose The purpose of this proposed plan is to consider the needs and determine relevant solutions to the issue of paideia for the omogeneia, confronting our Hellenic American Society and Hellenic College. It is envisioned that the two, working together, can interrelate their strenghts to the benefit of both for the common good. It is also envisaged that through this proposed plan Hellenic College would become even more relevant and stronger, and, in return, will provide more and greater educational services to the American Hellenic communities in their quest for the survival of our Greek heritage and culture, eventually becoming the conduit between the spiritual needs of the faithful and the Hellenic guiding light of our race. Conclusion It is strongly considered that the proposed plan will require the particular attention of almost every Hellene in America. It is strongly recommended, therefore, that this proposed plan -- when finalized to the satisfaction of Hellenic College -- be released to all American Hellenic communities and the Hellenic American press for consideration and input. It seems feasible that this proposed plan could be implemented by the Fall of 2004, with the spirit of the concluding Olympics in Greece running high. Epilogue In closing, I like to do like a coach who gives his players his Final inspiration before the kickoff, tipoff or first pitch, for the task ahead may be difficult but the objective is noble. I wish to recite three stanzas of George Veritis poem: "Kourayio," as it was recited recently in Wilmington, Delaware by one of our retired priests, Father George Giannaris: Τον πύργο χτίζουμε όλοι αντάμα και στο Χριστό κάνουμε τάμα κανένας μας να μη σταθή, ώσπου η δουλειά μας να τελειώση, στο βράχο ο πύργος να ριζώση κι' ισα με τ' άστρα να υψωθή Αλλοι αγκωνάρια πελεκάνε, κι' άλλοι τ' ασβέστι κουβαλάνε και φτιάνουνε πηλό απ' τη γή. Καθείς τον κόπο του θα βάλη, κι' είναι μικροί κι' είναι μεγάλοι κι' άλλοι μαστόροι, άλλοι πουργοί. Τον πύργο χτίζουμε όλοι αντάμα, κουράγιο, αδέλφια, για το τάμα πούχομε καμει στο Χριστό. Ολοι με κέφι ας εργαστούμε και με χαρά ας αγωνιστούμε, για να το κάνουμε σωστό. ---------------------- * Text of a Lecture given by the author,Dr.Dean C. Lomis,Professor Emeritus,Univesity of Delaware,to members and guests of the Hellenic Link,Inc. in New York City,on Dec.8,2001. The Hellenic Link is happy to present the Lecture on the inauguration of its Web Site, coinciding with the Celebration of Greek Letters Week.It wishes to bring to the attention of its readers the Educational Plan proposed herein by Dr.Lomis. The Plan should also receive the attention of educational experts for its possible adaptation to serve the educational needs of the Hellenic Community of N.America.