WATERTOWN–Mass.–Massachusetts Acting Governor A. Paul Cellucci signed into law Monday "An Act Relative to the Instruction of the Great Hunger Period in Ireland–the Armenian Genocide–and the Holocaust," House Bill 3629.
Just 10 days prior to Cellucci’s signing the bill into law–the Massachusetts Legislature unanimously approved H.3629–which requires the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Education to develop curricular material on genocide and human rights issues–and guidelines for teaching such material. The bill specifically references the Armenian Genocide–the Great Hunger Period in Ireland–the Holocaust–the Middle Passage and Transatlantic Slave Trade–and the Mussolini Fascist Regime and other recognized acts of genocide and human rights issues.
Chief sponsors of the bill–State Senator Warren Tolman (D-Watertown) and Representative Steven Tolman (D-Brighton)–filed the legislation in February 1997.
Currently–Massachusetts public school students are required to learn only three specific topics in history: the Declaration of Independence–the United States Constitution–and the Federalist Papers.
"Unfortunately–the history of the world is not just about the victories of independence–it is also about the evil human beings have inflicted upon each other," noted Rep. Tolman.
"Close to half of all Massachusetts residents can claim ancestry to ethnic groups killed during the Hunger–the Genocide–and the Holocaust," stated Sen. Tolman–adding that it "is a shame that we do not teach our students the history behind the immigration of their ancestors to the United States. Senator Tolman credited the victory of the bills passage to the efforts of activists across the state.
The Massachusetts branches of the Armenian National Committee (Merrimack Valley–Eastern Massachusetts–Central Massachusetts–and Western Massachusetts) led efforts to inform their communities of the bill and mobilize the public in support of the legislation.
"The ANCs of Massachusetts have worked diligently to ensure passage of this important bill–from the time the legislation was filed right up to the hour Acting Governor Cellucci signed the bill into law," noted ANC Eastern United States Chairman Dikran Kaligian.
"The grassroots made their voices heard throughout the entire Commonwealth–and we can now claim victory for all schoolchildren in Massachusetts," he added.
The ANC of Merrimack Valley organized public awareness campaigns and mobilized its community with letter-writing and postcard campaigns directed to Senator Robert Antonioni–Chairman of the Education Committee.
The ANC of Eastern Massachusetts led local efforts by making available to the public information on the H. 3629 and conducting letter-writing campaigns during the past 18 months. The ANC of Central Massachusetts conducted similar campaigns in addition to educating the public through a commentary written by the ANC-CM chairman which was published in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette in August 1997.
The ANC of Western Massachusetts led similar letter-writing campaigns in addition meeting with State Representative Walter A. DeFillippi. Ethnic groups throughout the commonwealth mobilized their communities in support of the bill–among them the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
The new law requires that the Board of Education–in formulating its recommendations on curricular material on genocide and human rights issues–consult with practicing teachers–principals–superintendents–and curricular coordinators in the Commonwealth–as well as experts knowledgeable in genocide and human rights issues. Those recommendations are required by the new law to be made available to all school districts in the Commonwealth no later than March 1–1999.