1. Characteristics of the Different Romani
A. The Vlax. The Vlax Roma are easily the largest Romani
group, constituting perhaps two thirds of the overall Romani American population.
All descend from ancestors held in slavery in the Romanian principalities
of Wallachia and Moldavia. The impact of over five centuries of enslavement
has very deeply affected the identity and character of the contemporary
Being socially-and for most groups physically-isolated as slaves for
almost their entire existence in the West, Vlax Romani language and culture,
while extensively influenced by Romanian, have at the same time remained
conservative in comparison with those of other groups. Vlax Roma
too, regard the use of the ethnonym Rom as applying exclusively
to themselves, despite the fact that its use as a self-ascription is found
among non-Vlax populations as well, e.g. the Bashalde. Perhaps
because the condition of slavery placed the Roma in a category clearly
distinct from the rest of society, and perhaps because isolation lent itself
to the conservation of traditional Romani cultural practices, Vlax Roma
in America are far stricter in maintaining social distance from the non-Roma
than are members of other groups. American Vlax Roma in fact, because
they came here soon after abolition and, following their arrival having
been able to maintain Romani culture practically unhindered-albeit invisibly-are
considered rather old-fashioned by Vlax visitors from Europe. The
Vlax population is itself further divided into eastern and western groups,
the "Russian" Roma, most of whom are Kalderasha, and the "Serbian" Roma,
most of whom are Machvaya. There are groups identifying themselves
differently, but these are by far the largest. The Russian Kalderasha
tend to be less assimilated and more mobile than the Machvaya, who include
individuals following mainstream professions among their number; both groups
regard the Machvaya as the more prestigious. Kalderashitska (the
Kalderash Vlax dialect) and Machvanitska/Machvanska are easily mutually
intelligible. The speech of the recently-arrived Lovara, also Vlax,
differs considerably from the long-established American varieties of Vlax.
B. The Romanichals. The Romanichals, Romichals or "English
Travelers," no longer speak inflected Romani, but an ethnolectal variety
of English nevertheless referred to as Romani or Romnis which
may contain from a few dozen to a few hundred (mostly) Romani-derived words.
For this reason, they count among the native English speaking population,
and special provision for teaching English as a Second Language would not
be a factor if schools for them were to be established. While the
majority of Romanichals are physically indistinguishable from the general
Anglo-American population, they nevertheless maintain a strong sense of
separateness from the gaujas or non-Roma, and can maintain pollution
taboos with some strictness.
C. The Bashalde. The Bashalde or "Hungarian-Slovak Roma"
as they refer to themselves, arrived in America as part of the larger late-19th
century immigration of non-Roma from central Europe, who came here among
other reasons to work in the steel mills in the northeastern part of the
country. The Bashalde (the word means "musicians") found employment
in the mills and in the ethnic cafés, clubs and restaurants as entertainers.
Though that world has long since gone, many continue to work as musicians.
Bashaldo Romani is of a Central type, and perhaps only 60% mutually intelligible
with Vlax Romani. It is no longer spoken by people below middle age.
Because of assimilationist policies directed at Roma in the Austro-Hungarian
Empire, Bashalde Romani Americans maintain pollution taboos to a lesser
extent than other groups, and the rate of out-marriage appears to be somewhat
D. The "New Wave" Roma. These include Roma representing
many different European groups, all of whom have come to North America
in the past 10 or 15 years. They have an imperfect command of English,
and speak a number of different dialects of Romani. Many of them
speak no Romani at all, especially the Romungre from Hungary and those
from certain groups in Romania such as the Catani. They tend to be
concentrated in New York and Chicago. There is little social contact
within these groups, and with American Romani groups, although alliances
are beginning to be formed in New York. Their priorities at the present
time are less directed at establishing special schools than at getting
established in homes and jobs in their new country.
2. Who are the Focus of Schooling issues?
The fact is, that it has only been members of the Vlax-speaking
Roma population who have been involved in any of the previously established
schools. Of the four groups listed above, those Romanichals and Bashalde
who are of school age are English monolinguals, and while their parents
share the same concerns as those of the Vlax parents, referred to below;
it is easier for their children to attend at least the first few years
of public (state-provided) schooling. Nevertheless some of the problems
encountered are the same as those that Vlax Roma children must contend
with, and the same reasons exist for taking the children out of school
in the early teen years. New Wave Roma do not constitute a homogeneous
group, and are only now becoming organized. It remains to be seen
whether special school provision will be sought-the number of children
among these immigrant groups remains small. Members of other (long-established)
Roma populations, such as the Sinti or Kale, are too few in number and
too scattered to participate in ethnically-directed school programs.
The reason that the only Romani American population to consider such
schooling were (and still are) the Vlax, may have to do with a perspective
on society conditioned by centuries of enslavement; only the Vlax Roma
were slaves in Europe. For those people, everything, from
food to clothing to accommodation, often choice of marriage partner and
even their very existence, was provided by the non-Romani slaveholders-the
gadje. For more than five hundred years, Vlax Roma had no decisionmaking
powers. This has created a world view which sees the situation of
the Roma as having been created by non-Roma who, having caused the problems
arising from it, must be responsible for solving those problems.
Having no internal autonomy or problem-solving power, the Vlax had to go
to the gadje for intervention. The success with which a slave could persuade
his owner to grant him favors personally, or to his community as a whole,
gained him considerable status. While this is not a characteristic
exclusive to Vlax Roma in the United States, it is far more typical of
them. Also typical is the desire not only to have influence with
powerful individuals in the non-Roma world, but to acquire influential
positions within it, particularly in law enforcement. Displaying
their deputy sheriff's badges is a not uncommonly observed ritual among
the men at Vlax Romani gatherings.
Other considerations aside, schooling, however, has not been regarded
as a positive thing by the Vlax Roma. I discuss the reasons for this
3. The Beginnings of Schooling for Roma
The involvement of Roma with special schooling ("alternatives" or parochial
schooling) dates from about 1965, and began in Richmond, near San Francisco
in northern California. The 1960s was the decade of emerging ethnic
self-assertion, and minority programs were beginning to flourish, supported
by affirmative action. But the Roma were a special case, because while
the larger society was entirely familiar with the African American and
Hispanic American minorities-populations numbering in the millions-it had
only the vaguest of notions of the infinitely smaller Romani American presence,
to the extent of being unaware of its very name Roma. The
concept of "Gypsies," on the other hand-a name Roma also use in self-reference-was
widespread, though based in fictionalized stereotypes rather than in real-life
experience. For this reason, the agencies which were approached and
which were willing to accommodate Romani students, such as the Municipal
Social Services Department, the Volunteer Bureau, the California State
Service Center and so on, made no special provision for them. No
permanent program was established, nor were these provisions centralized,
and no school resulted. Nevertheless this brief exposure to the classroom
was sufficient to stimulate the interest of both the students involved
and their parents, who were aware that at least some formalized basic education
was becoming necessary in an increasingly technological world. It
was in this framework that the first successful Romani school in America
was eventually established, a school which lasted for seven years.
Acknowledgment must also be made of the pivotal role played by Miller
Stevens in 1968, who was then living in Tacoma, Washington. After
learning of the Richmond initiative, he traveled to Washington DC to meet
with officials of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to make
them aware of the needy situation of the Romani American population.
He saw that other minorities were getting recognition and assistance, and
wanted the same for Roma. Indeed it was Miller Stevens who was responsible
for getting Roma recognized as an official ethnic minority by the DHEW.
He began a head start program for 15 Romani children in Tacoma out of his
home in the summer of 1968, funded by the Office of Economic Opportunity.
4. The First School
In the case of the families in Richmond, the stimulus was not initially
a desire for education, but because the truant officers were targeting
Roma families for their children's non-attendance and eventually arrested
numbers of parents and took them into custody. Sending the children
to school was a trade-off.
Two things happened: the children found that they enjoyed classroom
activities, within limits, and their fathers found that association with
the school board brought them a status useful in their interaction with
city officials. When news of this spread to Romani communities further
north on the West Coast, it stimulated the establishment of Roma schools
in Portland, Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane, and spread eastwards to Chicago
5. Roma Attitudes Towards Schooling
From the traditional Vlax point of view, formal schooling has not been
regarded as a good thing. It requires that Roma enter the non-Romani
world, which is seen as polluting and counter-cultural. Not only
is the environment unclean-particularly with regard to the toilet and cafeteria
facilities, but equally unacceptable would be the seating of boys and girls
in the classrooms, and the topics addressed in the curricula. It
would also require formally identifying oneself and filling out paperwork,
and spending a fixed amount of time in a non-Roma-controlled environment.
The classroom is seen as a place to learn to become gadzikanime
or "Americanized;" there is nothing in the schoolbooks about Romani history
or contributions, and when "Gypsies" turn up in the classes they are invariably
represented negatively in works of fiction-especially children's fiction
(Hancock, 1988)-and the historical figures presented as heroes in Western
culture are all too frequently the same individuals who sent Roma into
exile or even to their deaths. Schools are seen not only as environments
that do nothing to teach a child to be a better Gypsy, but which seem determined
instead to homogenize and de-ethnicize that child. Stories about
children's interaction with domestic pets, for example, send a different
message to the pupil from the values taught in the home. Stories
about structured mainstream domestic life present a picture foreign to
the Romani child, and newer, diversity-conscious storybooks, about e.g.
same-sex parent families are completely confusing and disturbing.
School records may be used to keep track of the whereabouts of Roma in
a community by the authorities; Romani children are often targeted by their
classmates once their ethnicity is known; one Romani adult remembered with
bitterness "Oh God, it was murder going to school; they wouldn't sit beside
you in the seats" (Anon., 1973a:5). Nick Dimas addressed these issues
most directly (Hancock, 1975:45-46):
In the United States, the continuing internal solidarity and
resistance to acculturation of the American Rom is a phenomenon that merits
closer attention. Although the underlying social dynamics of this
cohesion are as yet obscure, one of the prime techniques which maintains
this cohesion is not. They avoid the school system like the plague.
While most other U.S. minorities are boycotting, bussing and organising
to obtain better education for their children, the Rom are, by any means
at their disposal, keeping their children at home. As a result of
this mass truancy, the majority of adult Rom in the U.S.A. are illiterate
or, at best, functionally illiterate (fifth-grade reading level).
If the origin of this practice of education-avoidance is rooted in custom
and tradition rather than in a consciously organized group policy, the
results of the practice are no less effective in maintaining the solidarity
of the group. And if we use the tolerance of marriage outside the
group as an indication of group solidarity, they are solid indeed.
The school-avoidance tradition and its resulting illiteracy acts in
five specific ways to maintain the non-acculturation of the Rom:
1) The minimalization of time at school reduces proportionately
the influence of the teacher's value system on the Romano child, and effectively
eliminates the peer-group pressure of the other children, two of the tremendous
forces in the socialization process;
2) Illiteracy prevents any socialization in the direction of the majority
culture through the written word. It forestalls identification with
historical and cultural heroes in books and novels;
3) Illiteracy ensures that Romani will remain the first language
of the individual Rom, with the resulting reinforcement of group values
which occur when he speaks mainly to and in the company of other Rom;
4) Illiteracy limits the defection to the majority culture via
the occupational route, as only the most physical, menial and low-paying
jobs are accessible to an illiterate in the U.S.;
5) Illiteracy tends to discourage intermarriage between Romani
males and non-Romani females since the husband's income is severely limited,
and tends to remain so.
It is plain that the integrity of the American Romani community is
maintained in great part, by severely circumscribing the options of the
individual Rom. It goes without saying, however, that any socialized
member of the Romani community does not himself feel oppressed or deprived
by his lack of reading and writing ability-rather he feels 'liberated'
from the 'craziness' of the gadjo community, much of which he ascribes
to reading and writing.
Sometimes the singling-out of a Romani pupil can be for other reasons,
motivated not by animosity but by paternalism, but discriminatory all the
same. I can relate an anecdote concerning my own daughter Melina
who some vears ago at the age of about eight, came home from school one
day terribly upset. She was hurt and confused because one of her
teachers, of whom she was very fond, had told a boy in the class who was
misbehaving that if he didn't settle down she would "sell him to fifty
Gypsies." Melina wondered why a teacher she admired so much would have
such negative feelings about Gypsies. I called the woman at her home
that night and explained to her that Melina was a Romani girl, and that
she had been very upset by the remark. The teacher was embarrassed
and profusely apologetic, claiming that she didn't know Gypsies were a
real ethnic population. The next day, however, she told the class
that she had a "surprise" for them; that they had "a little Gypsy girl
in the class; Melina is a little Gypsy." From that point on schooling became
increasingly difficult for my daughter, and we eventually removed her for
placement in a different school. When I asked the principal in that
second school to remove certain children's books from the school library
which presented Romani characters in a damaging stereotypical way-this
was prompted after receiving a self-congratulatory circular from the school
announcing that in the interest of sensitivity to ethnic diversity numbers
of books (such as Little Black Sambo) had been taken out of circulation-I
received a letter telling me that the characters in the books were Gypsies,
not Romanies, and that Gypsies were fictional beings, distinct from
Romanies who were an actual ethnic people. The books remained.
6. Attempts to Accommodate Romani Culture
The Richmond school was fortunate to have as its first principal Anne
Sutherland (then Louis, and later to author Sutherland, 1975). Ms.
Sutherland recognized the importance of incorporating the priorities of
the Roma, which were both culturally and pragmatically determined.
Culturally, Roma needed to be on the school board itself, to oversee behavior,
meals, class topics and so on. Boys and girls were to sit separately
from each other, for instance. Pragmatically. they wanted such topics
as reading and writing to be taught, but were not interested in history
(of no practical value) or mathematics (already known) or gymnastics (inappropriate
culturally). Because this school, which materialized in 1970 out
of the various earlier programs, was initially unfunded and wholly supported
by volunteers, the school board was not subject to control by any funding
body. Ms. Sutherland had the wisdom to sit back at the board meetings
and let its Roma members make the decisions. In 1972 the new principal,
Janet Tompkins, was able to obtain the first state funding for the school,
which lasted until 1977.
7. Other Programs
A year after the Richmond school closed down John Ellis, the leader
of the Portland, Oregon, Romani community went to the State Governor to
ask for a community center for the Roma in his area. Ellis wanted
a building for social events, but which would also incorporate a classroom,
in which traditional Romani values, as well as literacy, would be taught.
There were 250 school-aged Romani children in Portland at that time.
The response was positive, though the Portland School District's relations
officer was adamant that such a project could only be transitional-set
up to prepare Romani children for their eventual entry into the public
(i.e. state) school system. A compromise was reached, after
other Roma leaders were brought into the debate, and a three-part program
developed: first, a summer school at Portland Community College for young
adults over the age of 18, secondly a vocational training program for younger
children, funded by the State Welfare division, and lastly afternoon and
evening classes for Kindergarten through eighth-grade. These were
held in the Romani business district of the city, and began in the summer
of 1978, supported by funding from the Portland School District, the State
Fund for Disadvantaged Children, Federal Impact Aid, and Title One.
But it was always made clear that the intent was clearly to prepare the
children to enter mainstream schools as quickly as possible.
While John Ellis enrolled his own three children in school (the Vestal
School), he was in a distinct minority; most Roma in Portland were just
not interested. Others pulled their children out of the classes because
they were being ridiculed and bullied. This was worse for the older
children, those who were unable to read, since the rest of their non-Roma
classmates could. Their non-native command of English also made them stand
out from the rest of the class. At the point of its greatest enrollment,
there were only 30 children attending, and then sporadically.
The problem was tackled by the school district's decision to put two
Roma on the payroll as "Special Gypsy Counselors;" they acted as liaison
between the parents and the administration, and worked with a non-Romani
American who specialized in "disadvantaged" pupils. While the Romani
children, as young as four and five, attended regular school, they only
stayed for two or three hours at a time, following the wishes of their
parents and the recommendation of the Counselors. The school board
was happy to comply.
Some of the children in Portland still go to school, but most don't.
The Vocational Training School program foundered after the second year,
and died (Rubin. 1980:72-73).
In the same year (1973) that John Ellis approached the Oregon State
Governor, in Seattle in Washington State another Roma leader, Ephraim Stevens,
was attempting the same thing. Like his brother Miller similarly
civic minded, he worked during the early 1970s as a community organizer
for the King County Economic Opportunity Board, which he asked for funding
to establish a Gypsy Multi-Service Center, a move stimulated in part by
John Ellis' action, and by the fact that Seattle's Chicano conununity had
just received over $130,000 for such a center. He was initially refused,
being told that the Romani population was too small to qualify-it didn't
exceed 500 at its maximum-to which it was countered that to favor one minority
over another on grounds of numbers was discriminatory. Bowing to
criticism the response was that the Gypsy Community Center was set up in
the city, headed by Stevens and funded by the Urban, Rural, Racial and
Disadvantaged Education Program, which contained a day school for young
children and an evening literacy class for adults. There were six
children to begin with, a number which quickly grew to 25. Stevens
hired a female university student to teach, and according to his own testimony,
she took over the program and gradually eased him out. She was followed
by three more non-Roma directors in succession, Lesley Easton, Barbara
Cemeno and Carolyn Hall. By 1981 the Gypsy Alternative School occupied
two buildings and had two teachers, with 40 students registered, though
only 26 came regularly to class. By 1983, there was just one teacher
employed there because of lack of funding (Whistler, 1983:14). The
Culture Center eventually closed down, but the school continued to exist,
for many years with the involvement of Dorothy (Bora) George, a local Romni,
and later Paul Stevens, brother of Kaiser Stevens of Tacoma. It was
the longest running Romani alternative school in the country, but it has
been closed for over three years now. Dorothy George speaks often
of re-opening it, but so far has not been successful in finding the means
to do so.
At the same time, another Roma leader, James Marks, in Spokane, Washington,
obtained funding from the Spokane Work Exchange Program for Young Adults,
and established the Gypsy Cultural Center in a disused army barracks.
For a short time it offered an evening class for small children, though
no day classes, and very quickly it transformed to a community and sewing
center for women, eventually closing down altogether after about six months.
Marks' three children attended both state school by day, and the Gypsy
school in the evenings. James Marks cannot himself read or write.
The existence of a similar venture in Tacoma, Washington, began by Kaiser
Stevens and funded by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, was more
successful-though stimulated by a 1975 juvenile court ruling that Romani
children not attending school were liable to be placed into foster homes.
This led to a proposal entitled the Gypsy Educational Development Program's
being submitted, which asked for $152,000. Its authors are not specified,
but the proposal is flawed in its understanding of the Romani American
population, and its design suggests strongly that it was meant at least
in part to provide a framework for somebody's doctoral thesis. What
did survive in Tacoma was an evening school program in which the students
were able to earn a General Education Diploma (GED), a high-school graduation
The three other school projects which have received attention were in
Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore, though there have been short-lived
ventures in Boston, Fort Worth, Austin and elsewhere. The Chicago
project was initiated by Tom Nicholas, supposedly motivated by Ephraim
Stevens who went from Seattle to that city to spread the word. Miller
Stevens obtained travel money from the Deptartment of Health, Education
and Welfare to visit Roma leaders around the country to tell them about
Roma schools and to try to establish new ones; but his greatest success
had been several years earlier, when he visited Washington in 1968 with
Stanley Stevens, a Roma leader from Baltimore, Maryland.
In Chicago, a grant of $26,000 from state bilingual funds was initially
provided for the 1973-1974 school year, during which time refinements were
made to the program and a proposal drawn up for submission for further
funds. It required, among other things, that
a) A Rom be named director and be given full authority
in the selection of personnel;
b) An equal number of Roma and non-Roma teachers be employed;
c) No distinction be made in salaries received by the teachers,
whatever their academic credentials;
d) Equal time be given to the teaching of Romani language and
culture by the Roma teachers, as to literacy and computational skills,
taught by non-Roma;
e) All classes were to be held at night;
f) Students of all ages were to be admitted equally;
g) No attendance or enrollment records were to be kept;
h) Students were not to be required to identify themselves;
i) Classes were to be small, and acquisition of any skill was
to be achieved by repetition;
j) There was to be no formal discipline;
k) Male and female students were to be seated separately, and
females were never the be placed in competitive situations with males;
l) Non-Roma teachers were to leave the room when sessions on
Romani language and culture were taking place;
m) The program was to admit the students regardless of their
place of residence, and with no reference to the actual school district
to which he or she belonged (Kearney, 1981:50-5 1).
The Chicago School District rejected the proposal, which was then picked
up by the Northwest Education Cooperative which provided $13,000 for a
three-month pilot bilingual program. This was entitled Gypsy Village
Hindsight and was located at the Halsted Urban Progress Center; it had
75 students to start with and eight teachers, half of whom were Roma, and
it seemed to be off to a good start. The evaluation at the end of
this period was positive enough to obtain an extension of a further three
months. The Chicago School Board was asked to sponsor a permanent
school but, despite the success of the pilot, it declined. Other
agencies approached by Nicholas, including the various urban colleges throughout
the city and the University of Chicago, were not in a position to sponsor
projects requiring bilingual funding. Different agencies such as
the Small Business Administration, the Right to Read Program and the Division
of Vocational Rehabilitation were all solicited, but none was willing to
underwrite a Gypsy project. The school closed down.
In Philadelphia in 1970, Kalderash Romani leader Johnny Thompson got
together with city officials to work out a compromise with them, because
they had begun to withhold payments from those Roma families having children
who were not attending school. A highly effective leader, Thompson
was not only able to obtain a $50,000 grant from the federal government
to establish a Gypsy school, but he was also able to persuade newly-arriving
Roma families that, as the forosko baro (community leader) he would
only help them find homes and establish businesses if they agreed to enroll
their children in the program. He even went so far as to arrange for regular
minibus transportation for the children to and from their homes.
The school was located in the basement of St. Rita's Catholic Church at
Broad and Rittner Streets. With the help of diocesan Cardinal Crowe,
and later one Father Bevelacqua, classes for as many as 200 children lasted
for more than ten years. All of the teachers were the nuns associated
with the St. Rita's Convent, and their main focus was literacy skills and
religious training. When Thompson died in 1982, no one was equipped
to take over the work of this dynamic man, and the school closed down.
Waning interest on the part of the government also ensured that here, as
elsewhere, no particular effort would be made by the authorities to urge
school attendance. The impetus of the sixties and seventies was a
thing on the past. Today, Thompson's sister Barbara Nicola has plans
to re-institute the school on the premises of her own church outside Atlantic
City in New Jersey, but the problems of finding teachers and funding have
yet to be overcome.
In August, 1968 in Baltimore, Miller Stevens met with Stanley Stevens
after responding to a telephone call asking how a Gypsy school might be
established on the East Coast. Together these two men visited a professor
in the Department of Social Relations at Johns Hopkins University, and
Maryland State Senator Joseph Tydings. Senator Tydings wrote to the
Mayor of Baltimore strongly recommending that social services programs
be established for Baltimore's Romani community; this in turn led to the
Office of Economic Opportunity and the Baltimore City Community Action
Agency organizing a joint discussion of the situation.
From this meeting it was determined that a survey of the Romani American
population of Baltimore be undertaken, to assess needs and numbers.
This was not successful. Most of the community refused to particpate,
and only members of Stevens' extended family seemed interested. It
was decided nevertheless to proceed with a proposal to establish a school
since the parents who were interviewed were unanimously supportive of such
a program. This was put together in 1968, and it asked for $14,300.
Its requirements were that
a) One teacher having sufficient background in linguistic
skills and with sympathy for cross-cultural problems be appointed to be
an effective instructor and innovator;
b) One female aide be selected from the Romani community to assist
the teacher as an interpreter and control link;
c) Space for a classroom be located within the Roma community
and be provided by the Roma leadership;
d) Educational materials and equipment be held in the custody
of the teacher between classroom sessions.
The evident Roma/non-Roma imbalance of authority, the biased wording
in parts of the proposal, and its one-family focus combined to assure that
the project would not succeed.
8. Institutional Resistance to Roma and Romani
Fear of Roma in the classroom in America is mild compared to reactions
in Europe; a British parent told a newspaper reporter that "[i]t came as
a tremendous shock when we heard that Gypsy children were to be taught
at the school. They smell, I'm afraid, and have the educational
standard of retarded children" (Anon., 1965:5), while in Italy, car tires
were heaped in the middle of the road and set on fire to prevent Romani
children from reaching the school; in Spain, local residents pelted Romani
children who were attempting to attend school in Zaragosa with bricks (Anon.,
1984:B7). In Hungary, at least in the mid-1980s, about 15% of Romani
children are put into schools for the mentally-deficient (Satory, 1986:5).
Although the Western U.S. schools for the most part received positive
support initially from the surrounding non-Roma community, their establishment
was not entirely free from elements of antigypsyism. In Seattle,
for example, when non-Roma parents learned that there would be Gypsies
in their schools, they became alarmed, and demanded meetings with the PTA.
"In addition to the fear engendered by the prejudiced view of the Rom,
there was also a feeling of resentment at having school territory impinged
upon" (Kaldi, 1983:2 1). Both Ephraim Miller and James Marks were
angered by the lack of enthusiasm and concern they encountered from the
establishment once the initial fascination with the Gypsy schools had passed.
While other minorities continued to received attention and financial support,
the administration and the funding bodies simply lost interest (Tyner-Stastny,
1977:32-34), and James Marks, p.c.).
9. The Situation Today
We may trace the initial impetus for creating alternative schooling
for Roma in America to the mid and late 1960s, when it was stimulated by
the general increase in interest in the civil rights of American ethnic
minorities; and we may trace its decline to both internal and external
factors-externally to declining available funds and (eventually) changing
governmental policies towards minority support, and to general ignorance
on the part of the establishment of who and what Romani Americans are.
Internally, schools failed to maintain themselves because of fundamental
cultural and social differences separating the worlds of the Roma and the
non-Roma, and the lack of trained personnel within the Romani population
to serve as administrators and educators. The Reagan administration
(1981-1989) severely curtailed minority funding, blocking the Texas Proposal
just weeks before it may have become a reality (Appendix, below); the Hopwood
Decision which brought an end to affirmative action (1997) has further
ensured that federal and municipal funds for parochial schools are out
Some classes have been created informally in different cities attached
to the Charismatic Christian ("bom again") churches which have proliferated
since the 1970s. While Romani community life is shrinking in terms
of numbers because of changes in family structure and distribution, Gypsy
churches are now providing locations in which Roma still gather in considerable
numbers, and on a regular basis. Indeed, this may be one overriding
reason for their popularity. But such classes still lack trained
teachers, or appropriate workbooks, or accreditation, and they tend to
focus on literacy centered upon Bible stories in English, to the exclusion
of anything else.
There is a thirst for education among young Roma, but satisfying it
means making it available in an accessible and attractive way. It
must hold their attention, it must be compatible with everyday life outside
of the classroom, and it must be reassuring to the older generation.
Ideally this means an all-Romani environment, with trained teachers who
are themselves Roma, who can not only teach various subjects but oversee
the behavior and wellbeing of the students. A start has been made
in New York with the informal weekly classes organized and run by Gregory
Kwiek, significantly a themengo Rom, i.e. from a European
rather than American-bom family. American Vlax Roma came here following
emancipation from slavery, and have not experienced the Holocaust and other
events in Europe which have politicized and educated European Roma.
The New Wave Roma are already bringing innovation with them, but the extent
to which it will spread into the American Romani population remains to
be seen. A greater sense of ethnic unity, bringing all Romani populations
to an understanding and acceptance of shared origins and unity, is itself
something which will have to be learned in the classroom.
Most of the entries here are concerned with Roma education in the United
States. For sources dealing with Roma education in Europe, see Tong,
Acton, Thomas, ed., 1971. Current Changes
amongst British Gypsies and their Place in International Patterns of Development:
Proceedings of the Research and Policy Conference of the National Gypsy
Education Council. Oxford: National Gypsy education Council.
Acton, Thomas. 1987. "Using the Gypsies' own language:
Two contrasting approaches in Hungarian schools," Traveller Education,
Anon., 1965. "We don't want Gypsies in our schools,"
Daily Mail, September 7th, p. 5.
Anon., 1969. Educating Gypsy Children in Baltimore:
A Proposal. City of Baltimore: Health and Welfare Council. Pp.
Anon., 1973a. "Prejudice in the classroom," Romano
Drom--Gypsy News, 8:5-6.
Anon., 1973b. Evaluation of Gypsy Village Hindsight
Program. Chicago. Pp. 28.
Anon., 1975. Gypsy Education and Development
Program: Grant Proposal. Tacoma: Metropolitan Development Council.
Anon., 1976. "Gypsy children break tradition," Your
Public Schools, 5:5.
Anon., 1984. "Spain's oppressed minority," The
New York Times, October 25th, p. B7.
Anon., 1994. "Opening doors to Gypsy children."
Annual Report for 1994, pp. 73-74. New York.
Binns, Dennis, 1983. Education and the Gypsy:
An Anthology of Extracts. Manchester: Manchester Travellers' School
Dimas, Thomas, 1975. "L'analphabétisme des
Tsiganes américains: Un facteur de conservation de leur culture,"
Egan, Yvonne M., 1980. "Portland's Gypsies see school
in their future." American Education, 16(2):20-24.
Godwin, Richard K., 1920. "Truant tribe in school,"
Hall, Carolyn, 198X. [The Seattle Gypsy Alternative School].
Unpublished Masters Thesis.
Hancock, Ian, 1975a. Problems in the Creation
of a Standard dialect of Romanés. Working Papers in Sociolinguistics
25. The Social Science Research Council Committee on Sociolinguistics,
Austin: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.
Hancock, Ian, 1975b. "The acquisition of English
by American Romani children," in Von Raffler-Engel, 1975:353-362.
Hancock, Ian, ed., 1979. Romani Sociolinguistics.
The Hague: Mouton [= IJSL 19].
Hancock, Ian, 1988. "Gypsies in our Libraries,"
Kaldi, Leita, 1980. "Um scuola per i Rom in USA,"
Kaldi, Leita. 1983. "Alternative education for the
Rom." Explorations in Ethnic Studies, 6(l):21-32.
Kearney, J., 1981. "Education and the Kalderash" in
Salo, M., ed., 1981:43-54.
Kearney, J., & C. L. Hickey, 1973. Gypsy
Village Hindsight: Proposal for Basic Literacy and Cultural for Romani-Speaking
People. Chicago. Pp. 11.
Kearney, J., & C. L. Hickey, 1976. Proposal
for Adult Basic Education and vocational Training Program for Romani-speaking
People (Gypsies). Privately-circulated ms.
Lee, Kenneth, & W.G. Warren, 1991. "Alternative
education: Lessons from Gypsy thought and practice." British Journal
of Educational Studies, 39(3):311-324.
Louis, Anne [= Anne Sutherland], 1981. "Forum of recent
innovations in gaujo methods of education: Organizational problems of a
Gypsy school-the Romani School of Richmond [California]," in Acton,
Raffler-Engel, W. von, ed., 1975. Child Language.
NewYork: International Linguistic Association.
Rubin, Steven, 1980. The Assimilation and Education
of Portland Gypsies. Unpub. BA Thesis, Reed College.
Salo, Matti T., ed., 1981. The American
Kalderash: Gypsies in the New World. Gypsy Lore Society Publication
No. 1. Hackettstown.
Satory, Suzanne, 1986. "Hungarian Gipsies still
The Guardian Weekly, February 9th, p. 5.
Sutherland, Anne, 1975. Gypsies: The Hidden Americans.
Prospect Heights: Waveland Press .
Tong, Diane, 1995. Gypsies: A Multidisciplinary
Annotated Bibliography. New York & London: Garland Publishers.
Tyrner-Stastny, G., 1977. The Gypsy in Northwest
America. Tacoma: Washington Historical Society (description of
the Seattle school).
Vogel, Albert, 1973. The Gypsy in America: Cultural
and Educational Problems. Privately-circulated ms., Albuquerque.
Vogel, Albert, 1978. "Problems of Rom Gypsies in
the US and its Schools: the Least Known Minority, " Journal of Philosophy
and Social Science, 3(l):35-37.
Vogel, Albert, 1979. "The Educational needs of American
in Hancock, ed., 1979:125-130.
Whistler, J., 1983. "Gypsy bake sale; or, should
we educate our Gypsies?." Good Mental Health, 247:1-17.