OPINION

Empty pledges in bad taste

Education and culture were among the top priorities of the new government back in 2004. Now, in 2009, there is a steady vocabulary that applies to the education sector (such as lack of basic infrastructure, operating weaknesses, staff shortages) with a few more recent additions, such as surgical masks, antiseptic soaps and H1N1 vaccines. But because «priority» has been given to education, students in the seventh grade are now equipped with computers packed with 16 educational software programs. Culture, meanwhile, is still waiting in the wings. Just two days ago, the chairman of the board of the Greek National Opera handed in his resignation, saying that he had never before encountered such a financial quagmire – the GNO’s debts have soared to 10 million euros. But, since culture is also a «priority,» the official response to his resignation was that its acceptance would depend on whether a replacement is found. So, the culture minister flicked the irksome bug of debt off the lapels off his coat, and is letting it land on the next board president. Time has passed between one election and the next with little progress having been made and the problems in both sectors just keep mounting. Any promises of radical changes now sound like little more than an advertising gimmick in a brochure. Small changes are, naturally, always welcome when they are for the better, but we should probably stop holding our breath in expectation of any major overhaul. After all, as a people we are well accustomed to prevarication and empty promises. The dynamic forces of culture and education are still here, trying to move ahead despite everything. These are the teachers and scientists who insist on doing their duty no matter how difficult it has become, artists who with little or no state support continue to surprise us, breaking new ground and winning accolades. But they are going it alone, so at least spare us the idle chatter about how education and culture are top priorities. It really is in bad taste.