There is a growing trend in the professional and academic world mandating lifelong learning. More and more, professionals – and even volunteers – are being asked to attend seminars, renew licenses, go back to school and attain additional degrees, etc.
The growing demand for skilled labor and highly-trained professionals indicates an ever-increasing mutual dependence between the economy and education.
Admittedly, there are victims in this new model. With the protracted economic crisis, you’re likely to find as many Greeks with PhDs waiting tables in a London cafe or restaurant as you would in a university, but that just goes to show you that the wrong people are running things in the Old Continent.
Even here in the United States, the work hours that teachers spend trying to meet ever-changing licensing requirements and whimsical demands imposed by upper-echelon bureaucrats trying to justify their ridiculously large salaries or politicians catering to special interests would be enough to probably save countless students from failing or dropping out of school.
Notwithstanding the innate problems that exist with every system, however, as the world gets more complex, education becomes an increasingly-prized commodity. Therefore, the pressures imposed on parochial schools and extracurricular enrichment programs also goes up, requiring a reassessment of practices and models.
One of the major problems plaguing the Greek-American Community seems to be a crisis of institutions. The subject of discussing whether or not our organizational model is best suited to serve the needs of the 21st century seems to be taboo.
Although we are living in 2014, our model for education is reminiscent of the days of the Wild West. Every entity maintaining a school operates independently of the other, and sometimes in (in)direct competition with each other.
In their defense, you cannot really blame them for doing so, because the burden for maintaining these noble institutions perennially gets kicked down one single organizational entity.
And so, if you find yourself stuck trying to navigate through the dangerous waves of ballooning expenses, dwindling enrollment, and scarcity of funding that come crashing down upon you, who can blame you for at least wanting to steer the ship as you best see fit?
On the individual level, Archdiocesan officials have done some really significant things. Following Greece’s decision to stop sending over textbooks, the Archdiocese has created a functional set of books to (probably better) fill this void. In addition, it has fought valiantly to maintain the status of the Greek Comprehensive Exam and secure credits for students passing this test.
Nonetheless, the question of the functionality of an institution surpasses the successes of isolated departments. The successes mentioned above must be augmented by a larger structural reform to aid in this colossal undertaking.
If the Archdiocese and individual parishes placed even remotely as much emphasis on Greek Education as they do on the gimmicky pitching of stewardship – that in some instances borders on brainwashing – the plus/minus factor regarding the status of operational Greek-American parochial day schools would not be negative.
Similarly, interest in learning Greek would go beyond just passing a test and earning school credit. Even if we want to approach this issue from a strictly utilitarian perspective, in today’s world, young people’s educational careers do not end at junior high school.
Therefore, the extension of Greek instruction throughout the secondary education level and into the tertiary education level is more than ever a necessity.
There are still very prestigious schools in the U.S. teaching Latin that make a compelling argument that an education in the (dead) language of Latin is important because it boosts SAT scores and prepares students for careers in law, medicine, and the sciences. Some of these institutions include elite public schools, while others exclusive private schools that people pay whopping tuition figures to get into.
There does not seem to be any logical reason why a similar argument could not be made for teaching ancient and modern Greek – which are at least spoken in today’s world, and just as academically important.
Even Greek afternoon schools could successfully raise their attendance and increase their significance by extending their grades and linking language instruction with students’ professional and academic goals.
Greek afternoon schools that could boost test performance or team up with professional law, medical, and other professional societies would be offering something very lucrative and useful to young people.
Of course, all of this presupposes that there be a conscientious decision to promote the Greek language and support it among community leaders. Priests (including some senior clergymen) would have to embrace the program, with at least as much zest as they seem to have for stewardship.
Meanwhile, other organizations and federations must live up to their responsibilities as well. Support for Greek schools has been less than stellar from these organizations as well, inasmuch as they are not burdened with the pressure of maintaining them.
It is a commendable thing to hand out college scholarship and it is certainly very impressive to make donations to universities, but it is also very foolish to throw an extravagant party in a home whose foundations are in dire need of reinforcement.
If those foundations are left to collapse, pretty soon, those fancy parties will not mean a thing. Any way you look at it, everyone seems to have realized the importance of education.
If the Greek-American community continues to approach the issue in a lukewarm manner, it foolishly jeopardizes its very existence and fails to capitalize on the most important investment opportunity out there.
The role of the Church in learning was always central. Hopefully, the “hazy ministry” model will recede and education will once again be embraced as vital for our Community existence.
If the current social trend is not a strong enough argument, perhaps the verse of the Psalm is: “Grasp tutelage, lest ever the Lord is enraged.” (2:12).
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