Report on Academic
Specialist Visit to Israel:
July 12-23, 1999
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
Areas of Specialization
Popular American culture, popular
American music (especially African-American), immigration and
ethnic studies, issues of multiculturalism.
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
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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