Bay Area ANC Releases Unprecedented Lesson Plans on Armenian Genocide

SAN FRANCISCO-The Bay Area Armenian National Committee just released "Human Rights and Genocide: A Case Study of the First Genocide of the 20th Century-Comprehensive Lesson Plans for Teachers." The curriculum gives step-by-step instructions to high school teachers to provide students basic knowledge of the reasons–conditions–circumstances–and consequences of the Armenian Genocide–combined with instruction on various other aspects of WWI–human rights and genocide in general.

The lessons–which can be acquired online or in notebook form–were written by two San Francisco World History teachers–Ana Slavicek and Nancy Kaufman–with the editorial participation of Genocide Studies graduate student Morgan Blum–and San Francisco Schools Social Studies Curriculum Development Directors Avi Black and Pete Hammer. In addition to the extensive research conducted by the teachers–the Armenian Genocide Resource Center provided many of the background materials used to develop the plans. The project was conducted and formatted for publication by Bay Area ANC Education Project Director Raffi Momjian and funded by generous local contributions to the Bay Area ANC earmarked for the project.

Newly released for summer 2003–"Human Rights and Genocide: A Case Study of the First Genocide of the 20th Century" is a comprehensive 190-page teachers’ manual including a One Day–Two Day–and Ten Day unit with all the materials teachers will need–including more than two dozen overheads–interactive classroom exercises and more. Discussions include a wide range of topics related to the Genocide: the history of Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire–primary source documen’s about the Genocide including witness and survivor memoirs–maps and political-economic timelines–the problem of denial–and legal and international considerations. The lesson plans also cover the Transatlantic slave trade–the genocide of Native Americans–the great famine in the Ukraine–the Rape of Nanking–the Holocaust–the Cambodian genocide–ethnic cleansing in Bosnia–and the Rwandan genocide.

Online registration for the lesson plans is free and open to teachers and the general public. Materials can be printed or downloaded online at www.ancsf.org/lesson-plan.htm; a notebook version can be purchased by mail.

The lesson plans are the result of a three-year collaboration between the Bay Area ANC and the San Francisco Unified School District to develop instructions primarily for 10th Grade World History teachers. In 1985–the California legislature directed the Department of Education to develop a model curriculum for human rights to be incorporated into social science courses in grades 7 through 12. In 1987–the State Board of Education ratified the Model Curriculum for Human Rights and Genocide–which provides a basic introduction to the history of human rights violations–including the Armenian Genocide and others.

During the past several years–the California Department of Education has been creating a framework and standards of education–which all teachers must follow. Students across the state take a standardized test each year–based on the "History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools." The "Framework" is quite specific about the Armenian Genocide–stating: "Within the context of human rights and genocide–students should learn of the Ottoman government’s planned mass deportation and systematic annihilation of the Armenian population in 1915. Students should also examine the reactions of other governmen’s–including that of the United States–and world opinion during and after the Armenian genocide. They should examine the effects of the genocide on the remaining Armenian people–who were deprived of their historic homeland–and the ways in which it became a prototype of subsequent genocides."

The process leading up to the publication of the lesson plans began in 2000–when the Bay Area ANC first worked with the San Francisco Department of Education to pass a resolution stating the department’s policy that "instruction on the Armenian Genocide will be included in the 10th Grade World History course of San Francisco schools." Noting the general lack of knowledge about this key event–the S.F. Department of Education also resolved to work with the ANC "to develop curriculum and materials to be distributed and used in San Francisco’s high schools."

Subsequently–the Bay Area ANC’s Education Committee–headed by Raffi Momjian–held regular meetings with the district’s curriculum development department and history teachers with the goal of creating lesson plans that are comprehensive–practical and flexible. An important aspect of the lessons is their applicability to the three major topics of the 10th grade Modern World History course: "Unresolved problems of the modern world,"The rise of imperialism and colonialism," and "World War I and its consequences." The lessons also address several of the goals set by the State Framework–including ". . . cultural understanding . . . –democratic understanding and civic values (national identity–constitutional heritage and civic values–rights and responsibilities)–and skills attainment and social participation . . ."

In his preface to the lesson plans–S.F. History-Social Studies Content Specialist Avi Black writes–"Without precedent of its own–the Armenian Genocide stands alone. It can thus be studied–to great effect–in order to establish the characteristics of genocide in general–and to explain why efforts at genocide continue to this day. To not study this issue is to increase the risk of such atrocities happening again in the future. In addition–important parallels can be drawn between the Armenian Genocide and subsequent genocides of the 20th century."

The curriculum lays a foundation that will help students understand subsequent units on Nazi Germany–the causes and consequences of World War II–and nationalism in the contemporary world (especially current issues in the Balkans and the Near and Middle East). The lessons have already been distributed to San Francisco high school history instructors for use in the 2003-2004 school year–with plans for broader distribution throughout the state and the country.

"We are proud and encouraged that the lesson plans have already received very positive reviews from educators who have been impressed with their completeness and usefulness in teaching many of the necessary themes required by high school Social Studies courses. We hope they will become the standard for California and beyond," said Momjian.

Black notes–"These lesson plans are some of the strongest I’ve seen to date. They not only present a case study of a significant historical event–the Armenian Genocide–but also stimulate students to put social–ethnic and cultural issues into perspective while encouraging them to think critically. I am confident teachers will appreciate the value they will bring into the classroom and will be motivated to use them."

The Armenian Genocide section of the S.F. Bay Area ANC website–where these lesson plans can be found and downloaded–was designated by the Armenian Genocide Resource Center as the "Best Site" on the Web for teachers–students and the general public. It includes "A synopsis of Armenian history up to the Armenian Genocide,"US Ambassador to Turkey–Henry Morgenthau’s first hand accounts of the Armenian Genocide,"Accounts of denial,"Resolutions passed throughout the world on the Armenian Genocide,"Quotes on the Armenian Genocide,"Links to sites on the Armenian Genocide," and "Resources for teachers and students on the Armenian Genocide."

Along with the state’s Model Curriculum and The Armenian Genocide-A Handbook for Students and Teachers published last year by the Armenian Cultural Foundation office–these lesson plans gives teachers everywhere a strong foundation for broadening students’ historical knowledge and combating historical revisionism.

For more information–please contact the Bay Area ANC at mail@ancsf.org–or through its website–www.ancsf.org–or by mail at Bay Area ANC–51 Commonwealth Ave.–S.F.–CA 94118–Phone: (415) 387-3433.

"Human Rights and Genocide: A Case Study of the First Genocide of the 20th Century-Comprehensive Lesson Plans for Teachers" can be downloaded at www.ancsf.org/lesson-plan.htm.

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