USIA English Language Programs

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Report on Academic Specialist Visit to Israel:
July 12-23, 1999

By Edward Ifkovic , Tunxis Community-Technical College


About the Specialist

Edward Ifkovic holds a Masters Degree in American Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts. He has taught English and communications at Tunxis Community-Technical College in Farmington, Connecticut, since 1972. He is the author of seven books, including textbooks dealing with American Studies, critical analyses of American literature and American movies, surveys of American immigration history, and a novel dealing with Croatian immigrants in Connecticut during the Great Depression. He has lectured widely on topics such as multiculturalism, popular culture (especially African-American music), immigration, and creative writing. He has held Summer Stipends from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as a full-year program at Columbia University on minorities in the city, under the aegis of Professor James Shenton. Moreover, he has conducted programs for the USIA in Italy, South Korea, Hungary, and Israel. He has lectured in Croatia, Sicily, and a numerous universities in the Unites States. He is currently continuing his research on immigration. He expects a novel for Young Adults to be published in the summer of 1999.


 

Areas of Specialization

Popular American culture, popular American music (especially African-American), immigration and ethnic studies, issues of multiculturalism.

 

 

Trip Report

The program for Jerusalem was designed with that country specifically in mind. In particular, the issues of civil liberty, multiculturalism, and popular culture were evident in the materials utilized. Israel, grappling with its own multiculturalism issues, is experiencing some of the same questions that Americans debated in the past few decades.

I found that by presenting the history of immigration on America, by analyzing the American debate over multiculturalism, and by comparing the problems facing both cultures, my Israeli students were able to gain some new perspectives on their own national situation. My program was both theoretical and practical: I presented historical overviews while at the same time employing classroom exercises that help my American students to fathom the complexities of a pluralistic society. So many of my Israeli students commented on the value of such a program: many said they would employ such exercises in their own classes, in an attempt to allow their students to understand the ramifications of living in a pluralistic society.

Moreover, my secondary concern--popular culture--was designed to assist these teacher-students in understanding something of the current fascination of Israeli youth with American popular culture. Dealing with Generation X and the Hip Hop world of rap music, I presented models of history and sociology to allow my students entry in the often distant and impenetrable world of youth culture. My intent was to help them understand the "why" of current phenomena, so that they can better understand where their students are coming from. With the heavy presence of American popular culture throughout the country, it is incumbent upon the educators to understand just what is going on.

I was told by many of the participants that my overview of youth culture was vital in their understanding the students' orientation. Some of the materials I used with them, they said, would be, in turn, excellent exercises for use in their own classrooms. My mini-course on American civilization at the end of the 1990s was designed to dovetail with Israeli culture during this same turbulent time. I fully expect the participants to return to their classrooms with more of a handle on American culture.

 

 

Suggested Bibliography

Gross, Theodore. A Nation of Nations. NY: Free Press, 1971.

Handlin, Oscar. The Uprooted. Boston: Little, Brown, 1957.

Howe, Neil and Bill Strauss. 13th Generation. New York: Vintage, 1993.

Jones. K. Maurice. The Story of Rap Music. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook, 1994.

Sexton, Adam. Rap on Rap. New York: Dell, 1995.

Wittke, Carl. We Who Built America. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1940.

 


 

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