For those of us who grew up in the United States as first generation Greek-Americans, everyone has a Greek School story to tell. Whether you were dragged kicking and screaming to Greek afternoon or Saturday school, or went begrudgingly because you were going to get high school credit for the Regents exam, most of us probably never thought about the history of the schools we attended or about the profound impact those institutions and the people who ran them had on the Greek-American community, how the community defines itself, its culture, and what Greek-American education across the United States might look like in the future.
Educating Greek Americans: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Pathways, Edited by Fevronia K. Soumakis and Theodore G. Zervas, brought to mind the vast array of memories I had stored up from attending Greek school on Saturdays at first and then in the afternoons twice a week. Reading the informative and well-written essays on Greek American education was an eye-opener to say the least.
From the impressive Foreword by Dan Georgakas, a longtime contributor to The National Herald and a treasure to the Greek-American community, to the essays by Soumakis on Greek Orthodox Education: Challenges and Adaptations in New York City Schools, and Maria Kaliambou on The First Schoolbooks for Greek American Children,
the amount of research that went into this volume is clear. That more research needs to be done is also clear and mentioned by the authors.
Marina Mattheoudakis, Angelyn Balodimas-Bartolomei, and Gregory A. Katsas also contributed to this thought-provoking collection with essays focused on contemporary programs.
Exploring Greek American formal and informal educational efforts, institutions, and programs as they evolved over time throughout the United States, the book is a must read for anyone interested in education and especially how the Greek immigrant community in the U.S. responded from its earliest days to the challenges of maintaining the Greek language, culture and Orthodox Christian religion over the course of more than a century.
The book is a solid step in the right direction for a subject that certainly requires further study and appreciation. The National Herald/Ethnikos Kyrix is also mentioned as one of the three main publishers of Greek books in the U.S. from the late 1920s at least. A book catalog published in 1930 shows an increased interest in children’s books and educational texts for all grades and demonstrates the longstanding dedication of TNH/EK to the community and to education.
Educating Greek Americans: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Pathways, Edited by Fevronia K. Soumakis and Theodore G. Zervas is available online.
About the editors:
Fevronia K. Soumakis is Adjunct Assistant Professor at Queens College, The City University of New York. She received her PhD in the History and Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Theodore G. Zervas is Professor of Education and Coordinator of the Masters of Arts in Teaching program at North Park University in Chicago. His previous publications include Formal and Informal Education during the Rise of Greek Nationalism: Learning to be Greek (2017), and The Making of a Modern Greek Identity: Education, Nationalism, and the Teaching of a Greek National Past (2012).