Another Clergy-Laity Congress has come and gone, and based on reports and photos (a picture is worth a thousand words), Greek Education was once again “thrown under the bus.”
The paltry participation might be attributed at large to the lack of any formal planning for the topic of Greek Education (since, according to reports, it was not even on the agenda), but also due to disinterest at the senior level, as well as on behalf of the delegates, who chose not to attend – perhaps partially to communicate their displeasure with the organizing committee for not promoting this vital issue.
Of course, the flip side – preferable to apathy, I suppose – is that senior clerics (especially those publicly talking up Greek Education and expressing their concern over its future) and other policymakers abstained from the session because they were not in agreement with the scope or breadth of the topic at hand.
However, if this is the case, they ought to follow suit in the near future and come forward with their own counterproposal so that their opposition might take a constructive form.
Whatever the case, it has become painfully obvious that Clergy-Laity Congresses do not seem to be a good place to talk about the all-important issue of Greek Education.
Perhaps, the issue itself is too critical to be discussed in tandem with other – usually hokey – items on the agenda. After all, the stark absence of young people and a large number of parish communities indicates that a lot of people are skeptical about the function of this biennial “convention” or are struggling to find any substantial meaning behind it.
For many, the function of the Congress might function as a veiled rather boring vacation ornamented by meetings full of empty words restating the self-evident.
Certainly the concept of family (this year’s topic) is important, but one would imagine that this theme would generally be met with a priori agreement and that in the end, the organizers are “preaching to the converted”…
Whether or not setting up “ministries” or increasing their funding to promote an ideology that cannot be taught, but only experienced, is questionable. And that exposes the Church to much more dangerous consequences.
When the anthropic institution of the Church, whose mission is salvific and whose knowledge and teachings are communicated empirically, opts to express itself through mottos, slogans, and campaigns, it becomes an ideology, much like liberalism, conservatism, communism, capitalism, etc. and ceases to follow its “tropos,” or modus operandi.
And it doing so, it loses its standing among the people. Rather than imparting its salvific knowledge empirically, as expressed in the lives of its saints, its exceptional symbolism, illustrated through its music, poetry, architecture, ethos, and ascesis – and most importantly, its holy mysteries – when it reduces itself to psychological ploys and marketing tactics to perennially raise funds for its “hazy” ministries, most of which do not function empirically, but seek to indoctrinate ideologically, it inherently becomes cut off from the people.
Perhaps it is better, then, that Greek Paideia is not discussed in such a setting, so contrary to the Hellenic tropos. However, that still leaves the question of finding an appropriate forum and mode of expression to deliberate on it.
Perhaps a separate conference that could be hosted by each Metropolis annually on a rotating basis, where local educators and university scholars could team up to present their findings and suggestions for the problems confronting our schools.
Moreover, on the regional level, educational councils could be set up to monitor the progress of local schools, noting areas where common initiatives might be undertaken.
Some other short to midterm goals that could be set include the establishment of at least one charter school specializing in Greek language and culture in every metropolis and large city containing a substantial Greek population. Considering the financial wherewithal of the Greek American Community and their human dynamic, this goal does not seem all that difficult. After all, the Turks have over 100 such schools operating in the United States!
Other initiatives could revolve around integrating Greek education with new technologies and strengthening its cultural component by merging the teaching of the language with other empirical cultural manifestations, like dance, theater, music, architecture, engineering, philosophy, gastronomy, etc.
The reasons for maintaining our Greek linguistic and cultural component are not purely based on ethnic vitality. These also contain a cultural DNA that dates back millennia and has imprinted on it the code of our “cultural otherness” – everything that makes us unique and captivating to our fellow citizens of the world.
This viewpoint is also embodied by saints of our Church, like Cosmas of Aetolia, whose 300th anniversary of birth we are celebrating this year. This canon holds true for Greece as well, whose financial crisis has its roots in a protracted spiritual crisis, including a systematic onslaught on its language taking place for decades.
The search for truth, the functionality of the community of persons, the (Aristotelian) insistence on empirical knowledge are all focal points in the Hellenic tradition, and even today are able to help the bearers of this culture resist the pitfalls of materialism, rationalism, and individualism that can adulterate our institutions and cause them to veer from their historic and time-tested path.
As our cultural lifeline, the Greek language and culture can protect us from these dangers that threaten not only our ethnic vitality but our ability to comprehend the priceless treasure of our faith.
In that sense, perhaps the failure of the Clergy-Laity Congress to satisfy some of our hopes and desires will lead the always restless Greek soul to discover other routes and modes to address these crucial issues.
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