Sacramento (CA) – On Wednesday June 18, 2014, with a vote of 7-0, the California Senate Education Committee unanimously passed AB 1915, the Armenian Genocide Education Act reported the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region (ANCA WR). The bill, joint-authored by Assemblymembers Adrin Nazarian and Katcho Achadjian, requires the inclusion of the Armenian Genocide in the list of studied subject areas for the adopted courses of study in Social Science for 7-12, recommends for the Department of Education to include the atrocities of 1915 into publications and curriculum materials, and encourages the incorporation of an oral history component into the teaching of human rights, and genocides, including the Holocaust, Armenian, Cambodian, Darfur, and Rwandan genocides.
Prior to the Senate Education Committee hearing, the language of AB 1915 was amended to consolidate and include language from AB 659, another bill introduced by Assemblymember Nazarian earlier this year, which encourages schools to use oral histories when teaching about the Armenian Genocide and other acts against humanity.
In his introductory remarks Assemblymember Nazarian thanked the committee and staff for their support and efforts in consolidating the language of the two bills and stated “Without adequate representation about the Armenian Genocide in our curriculum, generations of Californians will not have a comprehensive consciousness of the similarities and influences that the Armenian genocide had for perpetrators of atrocities that followed. Malicious methods of achieving systematic annihilation of a group through death camps, forced marches, and fatigue were staples that perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide used to try to destroy a race”.
”Oral histories will also effectively educate students on the struggles faced by survivors living in our communities. Understanding the trials and tribulations of genocide survivors will enable students to learn of man’s inhumanity to man and be better aware to deter genocides of the future,” he added prior to asking for an aye vote on the bill.
Joint-Author of AB 1915, Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian, took the floor as he joined his colleague in speaking in support of the bill and noted “AB 1915 will increase awareness of the Armenian Genocide among our youth in hopes that such tragic acts will not repeat themselves. We cannot change what has happened in the past, but we can choose how we move forward. This bill represents a step forward in the healing process”.
ANCA WR Legislative Affairs Director, Haig Baghdassarian testified on behalf of the organization in support of the bill providing historical background both on the Armenian Genocide as well as California’s unwavering commitment to recognition of the Armenian Genocide. In his remarks, Baghdassarian went on to add “Simply put, because despite the curriculum framework and the existence of teaching materials, it is not being taught in the overwhelming majority of California’s world history classrooms. This shortcoming was so glaring that it caused a group of high school seniors from San Marino High School to devote countless hours researching the general lack of awareness about the Armenian Genocide amongst high school students who had been taught world history but knew little or nothing about this significant chapter of the 20th Century. Those students, along with their American Government teacher, Peter Paccone, demonstrated their deep commitment to remedying this problem by traveling to the State Capitol on April 7th to share their findings with several members of the Legislature”.
Prior to its unanimous passage, Senator Mark Wyland discussed the importance of incorporating all the Genocides into the curriculum and the oral history component that would be added with AB 1915 and stated “I am pleased that there is no opposition because when I presented this bill there was, as you can imagine from various groups, a denial of what occurred” before making a motion to move the bill for a vote.
On Wednesday, May 28, 2014, the California State Assembly unanimously passed AB 1915 with a sweeping vote of 77-0, but the bill will have to go back for another vote after adopted by the State Senate given the amendments, which consolidated AB 659 and AB 1915. Once approved by both houses, the bill will need to be signed into law by the Governor.
Currently, California is one of 11 states, including Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Virginia, which have the Armenian Genocide included in their curriculum. The California Model Curriculum developed by the Department of Education, includes the Armenian Genocide as a recommended topic to teach. However, schools aren’t required to follow this Model Curriculum.
“In a recent survey conducted by the CA Department of Education under the auspices of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and in cooperation with the Genocide Education Project, we discovered that the Armenian Genocide, though recommended, is not being taught in any of the California public schools. Thanks to the leadership demonstrated by Assemblymembers Nazarian and Achadjian, the California State Assembly, and hopefully the full California Senate, educators will finally teach our future generations, not just through textbooks, but also through oral testimonies about the atrocities that took place during the Armenian Genocide of 1915,” stated ANCA WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan. “As always, the ANCA WR plans to coordinate efforts with its grassroots and community organizations to ensure passage of this bill and thereafter work closely with officials and schools to see proper implementation of the law,” added Asatryan.
Joint Authors of AB 1915 include Assemblymembers Nazarian and Achadjian. Coauthors of AB 1915 include Assemblymembers Ammiano, Ian Calderon, Fox, Hall, Holden, Nestande, Patterson and Wilk, and Senators Berryhill, Lara, and Vidak.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.