Advanced Placements and Our Heritage
The Italian Language Foundation, an ad hoc organization dedicated to promoting Italian language in America via the Advanced Placement (AP) College Exam, suffered a major defeat in 2009 when its efforts to fund the program came up short, resulting in its suspension during the 2009-2010 school year. But although the usual suspects had a hand in its failure – Italian American parental apathy and a perpetually weak economy – one of the main saboteurs was no less than our beloved Italian Republic, which reneged on its promise of financial assistance.
Sadly, this is a familiar tune. In Chicago, Italidea, an educational program created to fund Italian language programs in suburban junior high schools, has been reduced to holding annual golf and bocce outings to make up for la bell’Italia’s cutback of funds. Imagine the U.S. government instituting an English language program in Italy and then asking the Italians to fund most of it by holding pasta party fundraisers. Even Silvio “The Billionaire” Berlusconi would decry such American crassness.
Truth be told, the Italian government has historically done very little to promote the Italian language in any meaningful way in America, particularly among young Americans of Italian heritage. Instead, funding is mostly aimed at wealthy elites, city governments or political organizations, all of it geared toward encouraging more tourism to Italy. We Italian Americans are treated like flies at a picnic by the Italian government – we are shooed away.
The key to building an interest in the Italian language here is, of course, to inspire young people to love it at an early age. We know we sound like a broken record but the Italic Institute’s Aurora Heritage Program does exactly that, inculcating a love of la lingua italiana in 10- and 11-year old students on Saturdays. Logically, this then creates more of a demand for it at the junior high and high school levels where the AP is offered. The i’s have been dotted and the t’s have been crossed with Aurora. All that is left is the funding. Wherefore art thou, Italia?
Bill Dal Cerro