New Jersey is home to one of the largest collection of Americans of Italian descent in the entire country. Yet, if you ask any child if they learn about this important part of history, they would know very little. Luckily, there’s a solution to the problem.
A few years ago, the Italian-American Heritage Commission developed a full curriculum covering just this subject. “The Universality of Italian Heritage” curriculum is an infusion model which integrates Italian and Italian American cultural heritage throughout all content areas K-16. Ongoing professional development is provided to public, religious, private and charter schools statewide and beyond, as well as to colleges and universities at the undergraduate level.
This program includes extensive resources to teach about everything from the Roman Empire’s influence on the rule of law, to Leonardo DaVinci’s place in the arts and sciences, to Pinocchio’s role in literature.
It took a long time to develop this curriculum. The commission was first created by law in 2002 as a way to build up the state’s Italian heritage and dispel negative stereotypes. It is part of a long line of commissions in New Jersey with specific curriculum missions, including one for the Holocaust and another for African-American history.
“We are confident that The Universality of Italian Heritage will open the door to an educationally stimulating and rewarding experience for teachers and students throughout the country,” said Cav. Gilda Rorro Baldassari, Ed.D., who chairs the NJIHC Curriculum Development Committee. “Italy, through its art, philosophy, innovation and culture, heavily influenced and accelerated the development of the modern world, so it seems fitting that we use Italian heritage as a catalyst to create more enriching curricula for every student.”
Now I will fully admit I have no idea if this curriculum is being used currently. I know of two schools in New Jersey that have used it in the past – Little Egg Harbor and Nottingham High School in Hamilton. Additionally, I know schools are filled with state requirements, standardized test prep, and testing. Personally, I have always thought schools should teach the heritage of all our immigrants, as New Jersey is a melting pot full of ethnic pride and heritage.
Hopefully schools and civic groups will take full advantage of this curriculum and teach the full history of all Italians have contributed to the building of local communities, our state, and our nation. They need to go beyond the stereotypes of Jersey Shore and The Sopranos in order to get to who we truly are as a people.
One thought on “A Want for Italian Immigration History Education”
I agree totally. Italian culture should be infused into every students learning in the USA! What Italians have contributed to our society and culture is something to be proud of!