‘Alitheia’, ‘Idioteia’, and Hellenic Paideia in America

A life “according to truth” has traditionally been a central objective in the Greek culture’s hierarchy of needs, particular in organized civic life. Etymologically, the Greek word for truth (alitheia) refers to the absence of ‘lethe’ (forgetfulness); hence, it presupposes collective memory and a common understanding of things. From the earliest days of antiquity, Heraclitus emphasizes that we are truthful whenever we enter into communion, but lie when we try to formulate knowledge privately.

The former National Director of Greek Education for the Archdiocese of America Dr. Ioannis Efthymiopoulos recently released his book titled ‘Η Αλήθεια’ (The Truth), chronicling his experiences working for Greek education in America, the ambitious undertaking to design a series of textbooks specifically targeting Greek-American students, as well as the manifest and hidden obstacles he encountered during his tenure.

The significance of this written account and the accompanying book presentations in New York and Chicago last month surpasses its mere narrative component. It sparks concern over the state of Greek education in America and makes a seminal contribution to public discourse, giving rise to sobering questions like what exactly is this ‘invisible hand’ that obstructed a senior officer from exercising his duties, and what recourse is available to help our educational institutions realize their full potential. Do those holding institutional power and having the final say in managing Archdiocesan finances represent this mysterious ‘invisible hand’, or are they twiddling their thumbs and allowing it to operate unfettered?

A recent report by TNH regarding the exclusion of the Archdiocese’s Education Office from this year’s Leadership 100 grant monies totaling $5 million, aimed at supporting Archdiocesan ministries, leaves no doubt that Greek schools remain one of the most underserved and underfunded institutions in the organized Community. Moreover, it reveals a troubling incongruence between the Archdiocesan leadership’s words and deeds. The question here is not bureaucratic – whether the Education Department put in a grant request. Even if failed to do so, the absence of any action by senior officials, including the Archbishop, to rectify the error speaks volumes.

Going back to Heraclitus’ adage, truth is revealed when it is communed, while falsehood arises from private pursuits (the Greek word for such behavior is ‘idioteia’; literally idiocy). It’s high time that we publicly commun(e)icate our concerns and proposals for Hellenic Paideia in America so that the truth may be revealed. If the Archdiocese is unwilling or unable to stop the various ‘invisible hands’ handcuffing our parochial schools for decades now, it would be more honorable to just admit it and allow the void (which, as we know, nature abhors) to be filled by another institution. Otherwise, if it wishes to exercise its rightful leading role, it must dispense with half-baked measures, lukewarm efforts, and personal agendas, so that it can focus on the real problems. Case in point: it’s unfathomable that the Archdiocese can raise $500,000 at the drop of a hat for the earthquake victims in Turkey (a commendable initiative), but routinely cry poverty when it comes to upgrading Hellenic Paideia and funding schools!

In addition, new, more modern and efficient models of co-operation and co-administration must be explored, considering that the operation of a parochial school should not concern only the parish community in whose facilities in operates. Simply put, Hellenic Paideia is no one’s ‘private affair’, but rather, a public effort requiring coordination and synergy. Individual parish communities shouldn’t have to bear the full weight of the financial burden alone, but they also shouldn’t be given carte blanche to run schools any way they please. There are significant organizations that could offer invaluable contributions and upgrades in terms of expertise, human capital, and funding, however, this presupposes re-envisioning what our parochial schools look like and adopting ambitious new goals and visions.

Dr. Efthymiopoulos’ book speaks to this challenge and encourages uncovering the truth by ensuring that the events of the recent past, which require examination and analysis, are not forgotten. At the same time, the reader is invited to partake in the public dialogue informing common knowledge – the traditional method of revealing truth.

In the preface, the author cites an excerpt from General Makryiannis’ famous Memoirs, noting that “I will speak the truth plainly…” In an era where ‘idioteia’ prevails, thus giving rise to falsehood, we are in need of the plain truth more than ever. Hopefully the successful book launch will be followed by the release of an English translation, serving as an impetus for nationwide fruitful discussion and examination, communication of concerns and proposals that can liberate Greek Education and the Community as a whole from various ‘invisible hands’ that are keeping it tied down to a fate that is unbefitting, and which certainly doesn’t correspond to its tremendous potential.


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JUNE 23RD: On this day in 1996, Andreas Papandreou, the Greek politician and economist who served as Prime Minister of Greece for two terms (1981-1989 and 1993-1996), passed away.

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