Greek-American Education, a Battle for the Obvious

Graduation Ceremony at the Holy Trinity - St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Staten Island. Photo: TNH/Mihalis Kakias

For me, there is no finer and more promising spectacle of the Greek-American community than the graduation ceremonies of children from our schools.

A child’s graduation is the result of a long, difficult, and costly effort of many hundreds of people, children, parents, teachers, community members, donors, and (a few) priests.

It is the continuation of a huge effort that began with the arrival of the first immigrants and the first attempts for a rudimentary school organization at that time, in order to preserve the language, religion, history, and culture as important features of the Greek identity for the children born here in the United States.

Today, in the age of instant communication worldwide, this goal of our schools – the teaching of language, religion, history, culture – becomes infinitely easier, but also more valuable than ever, with the added dimension of its practical use and the empirical evidence that knowledge of another language is not an obstacle, as was once believed, but an advantage.

Yet despite all this, and despite that our community has surpassed its most ambitious dreams in terms of economic success, the accomplishment of promoting our education falls far short of our potential.

To some extent, it reminds one of the riddle “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” In other words, many parents do not send their children to Greek schools because they believe they are not on the same academic level as other, non-community schools. But if our schools don’t have many students – and, hence, economic resources – then how will they improve?

To another extent, many feel that for some reason is it not appropriate to live in the United States and cling to a foreign culture and national identity.

But it is now apparent that there is no contradiction in being a good American citizen and keeping the elements of one’s particular origins alive. In fact, I would say that realizing the value of one’s ancestry enhances the American identity.

Moreover, it is clear that those who engage in such criticism are not looking around them to see what other minority groups are doing.

Nonetheless, a large part of the problem, perhaps the largest, is the substandard “organization” of our schools under the Archdiocese. It is exactly the same form of organization that was created when our schools were first founded. And, perhaps it would not be a problem – as other minorities demonstrate – if there was a substantial organizational structure and, mainly, an interest in the schools on Archdiocese’s part.

Unfortunately, however, there hasn’t been any essential interest for decades. However the situation has reached a dramatic point due to inaction. Thankfully, though, there are individuals who continue to fight for the awakening of parents and authorities of the value of our schools.

However they would certainly be more effective if they could possibly unite in fighting this battle. A battle that would be important for the future of the children, parents, and Hellenism.