SAN FRANCISCO–The San Francisco-Bay Area Armenian National Committee Education Subcommittee and the Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural and Educational Association jointly sponsored an afternoon luncheon recently honoring teachers of the San Francisco Bay Area. The ANC Education Subcommittee presented its Armenian Genocide curriculum project for Bay Area public schools to the Armenian-American teachers present.
The project’s goals are to work with schools and individual teachers to inform them of the state mandate to teach the Armenian Genocide–encourage them to implement the mandate–and provide teaching resources to facilitate their coursework.
Guest speaker at the luncheon was Jack Weinstein–Regional Director–Facing History and Ourselves. He said–"Facing History and Ourselves is a national–educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism–prejudice and anti-Semitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. By studying the historical development and lessons of the Holocaust and Armenian Genocide–students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives."
Using the Holocaust and other genocides and human rights issues as examples–Facing History teaches students critical thinking skills–cultural understanding–and civic participation skills–helping students understand the inherent strengths of democracy as well as recognize the steps that often take place when democracies perish.
ANC spokesperson–Roxanne Makasdjian spoke about ANC’s vision in establishing the Genocide curriculum project–"Our biggest battle now is not the problem of denial–but the problem of time passing by. There are now new generations of Americans who haven’t heard or read a word about the first genocide of the 20th century–and low and behold–the 20th century is coming to a close. Thinking about that and the constant efforts at historical revisionism–made us realize that unless we institutionalize learning about the Genocide–we have no hope that this great crime against humanity will be remembered–and more importantly–that leaders-to-be will learn from it–for the benefit of future generations."
Recently–several pieces of California legislation were passed which will help influence the teaching of the Armenian Genocide in public high schools. The State Department of Education has added a test question on its standardized test for 10th grade students regarding the Armenian Genocide–and funding has been appropriated for the re-publication and distribution of the human rights curriculum–as well as for the completion of documentary about the Genocide.
Raffi Momjian–ANC Education Subcommittee Chair explained–"I was really excited to know that 10 years ago California passed a State Bill mandating that the Armenian Genocide be taught in California high schools. However–I was later amazed to learn that teachers were not including the Genocide in their classrooms despite passage of this bill." He said–"The main challenge of our committee is to address this problem with Bay Area high school teachers. The most critical role we believe teachers can play in this project is by becoming liaisons or field representatives in each of the school districts."
Addressing teachers directly–Momjian sought their expertise to help the project succeed. "If you can reach out to your colleagues–we can provide whatever teaching resources you need. The personal contact in every school is very important." Rita Zobayan–an ANC education subcommittee member and high school teacher provided testimony of her own experience in reaching the group’s highest goal. "Rita made the personal connection necessary to get teachers interested in teaching about the Armenian Genocide. At her school in Hayward–California–4 out of 7 social studies/history teachers are now teaching the Armenian Genocide. Momjian praised Zobayan’s effort. "This excellent result was made possible not only by our initial correspondence–but because of Rita’s personal outreach effort. It is essential to duplicate Rita’s experience across Bay Area high schools to make our project work."
Frank Navarro–who teaches an elective course in Comparative Genocide Studies in Mountain View High School–was also present at the luncheon. He told colleagues that his students were fascinated by the Genocide–its denial and efforts at historical revisionism. During the presentation–the Committee showed ABC’s World News Tonight’s Peter Jennings’ Armenian Genocide which aired on April 30th 1999. The San Francisco-Bay Area ANC is working on a plan to make the video widely available to schools so that teachers can use it as an introduction to their lessons about the Genocide.
In addition to a letter campaign–the Education Subcommittee has been collaborating with the Armenian Genocide Resource Center–and its director–Richard Kloian–who has been providing valuable teaching resources on the Armenian Genocide. Teachers interested in the program can contact the ANC at (415)387-3433.