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“Where is the Line of Retreat ?”: Challenges Facing Armenian Schools in Southern California. Shushan Karapetian , C.Phil Armenian Studies, UCLA April 13, 2013. Where is Armenia?. Armenian Immigration to the United States. Second Wave Political unrest in the Middle East 1970s
“Where is the Line of Retreat?”: Challenges Facing Armenian Schools in Southern California ShushanKarapetian, C.Phil Armenian Studies, UCLA April 13, 2013
Armenian Immigration to the United States • Second Wave • Political unrest in the Middle East 1970s • Collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s • First Wave:19th – early 20th century • Protestant Missionaries • Post massacres and Genocide
Armenians in the United States • 2000 U.S. Census • 385,488 respondents indicated either full or partial Armenian ancestry • 153,000 Armenians in Los Angeles County • 2007 American Community Survey • 446,032 Americans with full or partial Armenian ancestry • 40% of the population of Glendale (around 80,000) and the student body of the Glendale Unified School District
Language Maintenance – LA Community • Private Armenian Community Schools • Day schools ranging from K-12 • Saturday schools • Preschools • After school Armenian language programs in public schools • Immersion programs in 2 GUSD elementary schools • Armenian Charter School in North Hollywood • Colleges and Universities • UCLA, CSUN, GCC, PCC
Armenian Private Day Schools • Prelacy Armenian Schools (Total enrollment – 2402) • 7 preschools • 5 K-12 schools • 1 K-8 school • Non-prelacy Armenian schools (Total enrollment – 2130) • 2 PK-12 • 5 PK-8 • 1 PK-6 • 1 9-12 • Serve under 5% of Armenian community
Mission Statement of Prelacy Schools The mission of Prelacy Armenian Schools is to ensure academic excellence in accordance with Federal and State guidelines and standards. In addition, the schools strive to develop in our students a strong sense of national and spiritual values and prepare them to become well-rounded and outstanding Armenian-American citizens. The students are highly encouraged to actively participate and contribute to the well-being of the global and local communities. The Prelacy Armenian Schools promote Armenian principals and values and the preservation of the ethnic heritage, language, culture, tradition, history, and religion of the Armenian people. The students are motivated and inspired to be actively involved in the pursuit of the Armenian Cause and strengthen the independence of Armenia, based on principles of democracy, equality, justice, and economic prosperity.
Decline • General decline in enrollment in both prelacy and non-prelacy schools • Demographics • Economy • Growing competition from public school system • Charter • After school programs • Immersion programs
Projects/Committees • Saroyan Project • Round-table discussion about reevaluating Armenian curriculum at Chamlian Armenian School (May 2011) • “We have a two-pronged problem at our school. First, our students don’t like Armenian class. Second, they don’t graduate with high proficiency in Armenian.” (VazgenMadenlian, Principal of Chamlian) • Armenian Task Force • Established by the Board of Regents of Prelacy Armenian Schools to reevaluate Armenian curricula
Challenges Role of Armenian Issue of two standards Issue of two orthographies Quality of education Safe and “Armenian” environment Teachers Re-evaluation of the role of language in Armenian identity (RubinaPeroomian, 2006)
Teachers • No institution which prepares and certifies Armenian teachers for the Diaspora • Most teachers are hired based on recommendations and previous experience teaching in another diaspora community (Syria, Lebanon, Iran). • There is no uniformity in the instructors’ theoretical and methodological approach. • On the contrary - each teacher comes from a different school of pedagogy (if they indeed have some kind of formal pedagogical education) and with very diverse attitudes about what kind ofArmenian should be taught and how it should be instructed.
Teachers Training in Armenian Studies and pedagogical methods Resources Compensation Future generation of teachers?
Students Already children of heritage learners/speakers View Armenian as an imposed subject which remains within the boundaries of the classroom Lack motivation/incentive to pursue Armenian Language compartmentalization (Kouloujian)
Parents Linguistic proficiency Attitude Support
Demographics of Parents Mothers’ Birthplace Fathers’ Background • Ethnicity • Armenian 96% , Czech 4% • Iran 42% • US 15% • Syria 15% • Armenia 12% • Lebanon 8% • Germany 4% • Prague 4% • Age of arrival in US: 15 • Ethnicity • Armenian88%, Polish 4%, Russian,4%, Italian 4% • Birthplace • Iran 38% • Lebanon 12% • Iraq 7.5% • Kuwait 7.5% • US 7.5% • Syria 7.5% • Armenia 4% • Israel 4% • Ethiopia 4% • Russia 4% • Argentina 4% • Germany 4% • Prague 4% • Age of arrive to US: 17
Parental Attitudes • Rate the following factors in your decision to send your child to Chamlian from most important to least important (1 being most important, 5 being least important). 31% Safe environment 24% Standards of education 15% High proficiency/fluency in the Armenian language 15% Fostering a sense of “Armenian-ness” 15% Armenian environment (social circle, friends, activities)
Unique Features of Armenian-American Community • Armenian-American community, particularly in Los Angeles vs. traditional Diaspora Armenian • Diverse & Hybrid • Armenian-American community school vs. traditional Armenian community school • American private school with Armenian as a foreign language • Armenian-American learner vs. traditional Armenian heritage learner • Lower proficiency, English dominant heritage learner
Concerns • Schools not producing critical mass which consumes and produces Armenian culture in Armenian (Kouloujian) • Teachers • Writers • Newspaper editors • Community leaders • Administrators
Looking ahead…. • Define the minimum role of Armenian in order to achieve a self-sustaining critical mass • Promote minimum role • Business model • Clarify product • Define market • Establish methods of delivering product • Include all stakeholders as partners • Teachers, parents, students, administrators