Interview: Maro Voulgari | Photo: Ioanna Fysilani
Paros was founded on the small, the slow and the little
A secondary education teacher who worked at schools at Mykonos, Andros and Paros for many years, he is the Master not only for his students but for everybody. Born and raised at Paros, writer of several books, a student of the island’s flora, a founding member of Archilochos, a man inspiring in his speech and consistent in his deeds, Christos Georgoussis talks with us about culture, sports, education and his concerns about the island’s future.
As a teacher you’ve always had a bold and pioneering stand. Even now, you still stand out as a pioneer. Is the educational system as conservative as it used to be?
It’s impressive. My only hope now is that the teachers will dare to do something different, not the central administration. While our effort was to provide meaningful studies at the high school (Lyceum), to cultivate a disposition for learning and critical thinking, instead we have students who in the last year, or even the two last years of school, just prepare for university exams.
What’s your concept of teaching?
When I was first appointed at Mikonos, I wrote on the blackboard. “We are together. We’re an alliance”. This appeared a bit incredible, at the time. The children of course understood. They had limitless imagination. I still have contact with them.
I have contact with more than ten children of that time. I had adopted a cross-curriculum approach and I remember that we used slides to find Doric orders all over Greece. We enjoyed all this.
Once a mother said to me: ”Are you the one who gives them eight pages to study?” Surely not. The book was horrible. I asked them to skim through. I never asked them to learn anything by heart. I’ve always been against rote learning. I believed that the dialogue we had, the boosting of the student’s interest was much more important that the textbook. You know even if some children are revolutionaries as students, they become conservatives as parents.
One can see that the island has an interesting cultural life. Are you up to date? What’s your assessment?
Cultural life at Paros began in 1975, after the dictatorship. During the seven-year dictatorship there was a stalemate. We had the old musicians who were alive and although they were at a retirement age we urged and invited them to play at various events. At that time “Archilochus” was founded. There was a group which founded it and I was one of the active members. Many people worked and still work for the “Archilochus”. It was an association of the entire island and it started with holding musical events. We presented Mikis Theodorakis “Axion Esti” at the tavern Eucalyptus. When Elissavet Papazoi saw the performance, said we had to play it by all means at Syros, which we did. We also presented Seferis “Epiphany Averof” at Naoussa. “Archilochus” dared to do other things as well. Meetings on history, tourism and the environment. It was like a café of ideas. We, ‘the Archilochus forty’, usually met at the tavern “Apollo”. We sang, had symposiums… It was there that the “Archilochus” choir and its concert team were founded.
You have organized several athletic teams at the island.
When I took over, Archilochus was a football club as well, and we helped with its development into a cultural association but also with the establishment of the Athletic and Nautical Clubs. There were two tendencies then, an athletic and a cultural one. Now its cultural cohesion is threatened because there exists a political decline. In 1975 “Archilochus” established the Free Forum, a citizen’s movement. We discussed various issues and we printed a leaflet with our recommendations and sent it to the Municipality. The Free Forum is still alive and occasionally posts at the Facebook.
What’s the meaning of your birthplace for you? How does it affect you?
There are old pictures and figures which haunt me. My father’s goats I herded and you could call them by their name, one by one, the smell of the vitex at Lefkes, the rivulet, all this made me feel happy. It was a sense of fullness I’ve never felt again. My father was very fond of books. Inside a small piece of furniture, he had “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” in five volumes, I read it when I was fifteen and “I lost myself”. I can recite entire passages. At that age, I also read Mirivili’s “Life in the Tomb” and the first magazines of Karaghiozis and Gaur Tarzan… However, school and nature were separate. The school had no connection with the surrounding environment. We’ve never had workshops in the nature. You finished school and you couldn’t tell the names of ten flowers.
What can be done to prevent the violation of the island’s natural landscape and beauty?
Many efforts have been made to degrade the island and they have been successful up to a point. Since the time I came back to the island in 1978, 50% of its natural beauty has been lost. The governments have not taken measures to avert this development. At the same time the number of locals goes down.
There are political responsibilities for this decline. Islands like Santorini and Mikonos are in dire danger. Paros as well, now. It has changed to such a degree that it runs the danger of becoming a suburb of Athens. I see the girls in the shops wearing the uniforms of multinational enterprises. You see, we have attracted the interest of the big capital which has begun buying monstrous regions. In this way, the character of an island founded on the small, the slow and the little gets corrupted. These three concepts are under merciless attack. At the same time, with the so-called Mild Energy sources we invade a region, opening monstrous roads, knocking down drywalls, dovecotes, wells and threshing floors, frightening the fauna so that we can install wind turbines.
Paros is a tourist island. Wind turbines are out of place here. Otherwise, it will become an industrial park.
Which is Paros of your dreams?
If the so called “development” comes to an end, there is a chance Paros will be in a position to support such dreams. What we need is organization and cohesion. One of the major problems in most places is the lack of understanding and cohesion.