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ACR 22 and the State “Model” Curriculum for Human Rights and Genocide.

Los Altos, CA, April 16, 2001 – Assembly Concurrent Resolution 22 (ACR 22), as amended completely from its original form, now refers to the “Model Curriculum for Human Rights and Genocide”, published by the California State Department of Education, hails it as exemplary, and recommends State sponsored workshops and seminars to encourage teachers to use this curriculum in teaching.

Turkish-Americans in the State of California are opposed to ACR 22 in that the chapter, dealing with the atrocities that befell many innocents of the then Ottoman Empire, is one which fails to meet responsible guidelines dealing with the teaching of controversial issues. The background of how this chapter emerged is one of contrivance, manipulation, and the deliberate decision to exclude material, which would have enabled students to understand the enormous hardships, and tragedies that befell so many Armenians, Turks, Kurds and others during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire and the onset of the First World War. This probably also explains the general unwillingness on the part of teachers to refer to and use this curriculum.

It came to the attention of Turkish-Americans in 1984 that the legislature by way of AB 1273 intended to create a genocide curriculum. It become apparent that the section dealing with Armenian claims of genocide was to exclude any scholarly input that would have shown that allegations put forth by the Armenian proponents of this curriculum were less than the totally encompassing truth. After much correspondence with then head of the Social Studies/ History unit, Dr. Diane Brooks, Turkish-Americans were able to have representation on the advisory commission dealing with the development of this material. Due to the enormous pressure exerted by the Armenians as well as their supporters during the tenure of Governor George Deukmejian, any and all information and resources that demonstrated that the claims espoused by the Armenians were less than representative of the era, were summarily and deliberately excluded. Consequently, the approved and disseminated curriculum guide on Human Rights and Genocide is neither a model nor exemplary in that it violates the basic premise of teaching students to think critically and analytically when faced with issues of great controversy. How many Californians can say that this issue is not controversial in that it takes up quite a bit of taxpayer dollars and causes members of the legislature to attempt to judge a time and place in history, about one hundred years ago, with which they have no direct experience other than by hearsay.

Critical thinking and the ability to examine all sides of controversial issues are vital to responsible citizenship. Since the objective study of history has the power to aid in understanding complex human relationships in the public affairs area, it is vitally important that the “Armenian Question” be studied impartially. Such impartial study must include careful examination of all perspectives, information, and resources related to the “Armenian Question”.
In 1969, the National Council for Social Studies issued a position paper addressing the study of controversial issues. It states, in part, “that students need to study issues upon which there is disagreement and to practice analyzing problems, gathering and organizing facts, discriminating between facts and opinions, discussing different viewpoints, and drawing tentative conclusions”.

Regarding curriculum, the NCSS warns that the mandating of curriculum or content by legislative action or legally established agencies presents a threat to academic freedom. “When such mandates are based upon a prevailing political temper, parochial attitudes or the passions of a specific point in time, they are especially dangerous”.

The State of California, in its criteria for evaluating instructional materials states, “materials must be accurate and truthful in describing controversies in history, including controversies among historians. The past, like the present was rife with controversy, with hotly contested events with uncertainty and division among major actors, with indecision on the part of policymakers.”

Sadly, the State of California and Massachusetts violated their own guidelines, the former by refusing to include material from other than Armenian sources, the latter by eliminating (post printing and dissemination of the resource list) of any and all resource material which would have demonstrated the tragedy that befell so many innocents of the Ottoman Empire, regardless of ethnicity and religion.

We emphasize the fact that many innocent Armenians suffered terribly. Importantly, neither should one minimize nor ignore the tragedies and suffering that befell the Turks during this turbulent and tragic era in man’s national and global history, almost one hundred years ago.

It is academically dishonest to represent the history of the Ottoman Empire and its Armenian citizens as one of aggressor versus innocent, helpless victim. It is dishonest scholarship to exclude differing historical references and viewpoints from the curriculum despite the expressed criteria for academic freedom within social studies that in essence, underscore the need for accuracy in dealing with historical controversy as well as controversies among historians. It is not only dishonest but hypocritical to extol the virtues of teaching critical thinking skills through presentation of events, causes and controversies while deliberately excluding evidence, documentation and community resources presented to the State which disagree with the premise espoused by members of the Armenian community which seeks to see itself as unique in its suffering. The Turks have very similar stories to tell of an era that was fraught with pain, human suffering, injustice and death, some at the hands of those whose descendants claim unilateral victimization.

TAAF is in possession of correspondence to Bill Honig, former Superintendent of Schools and to the Board of Education, dating back to 1986. This material shows that the curriculum hailed as being a model in fact was one which was designed to meet the demands of the Armenian community so that they could legitimatize claims of one sided victimization. The chief author of the material accepted was Richard Hovanessian of UCLA.

Recently the State Department of Education of Virginia held meetings in anticipation of changes to the Social Studies /History Framework. They were heavily lobbied by the Armenian community to include their version of “genocide”, similar to the California Curriculum. The Turkish American Community presented their requests that such curriculum include their losses, sufferings and hardships during these tumultuous times. After listening to all sides for untold hours, it was decided that such an addition to the existing Holocaust curriculum would not be appropriate since the Armenian proponents refused to accept the inclusion of the deaths of Turks, Kurds and others.

Turkish-Americans Californians could accept a curriculum guide that would include all resources, testimonies, scholarship, and other pertinent data that would in fact truly educate the youth of California as to the history of Ottoman-Armenian relations. As it stands now, the Curriculum issued in 1988 is a sham, deceptive and contrived.

As matters stand now, Turkish-Americans resent and reject the attempt to be legislated, censored, and cast as villains, and they look forward to the day when education in the State of California will be based on neutral research rather than legislated as a result of political pressures.

Turkish American Alliance for Fairness is a 501(c)4 public benefit organization dedicated to promote public understanding and fair treatment of issues of concern to Turkish-Americans, and to public education and other civil activities in related matters.

Phone: 650-562 3565
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URL: http://www.taafnow.org

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