Iannazzi would ensure history studies don’t ignore the ugly side

The Providence Journal (Rhode Island)
March 16, 2005 Wednesday

Iannazzi would ensure history studies don’t ignore the ugly side

by DANIEL BARBARISI, Journal Staff Writer

CRANSTON – It is said that those who do not remember the past are
doomed to repeat it. A School Committee member wants to ensure that
the city’s public schools aren’t part of that equation.

When it comes to teaching about some of the uglier episodes in world
history, Cranston’s two high schools don’t flinch. They are among the
relatively few in Rhode Island where students learn about such low
points as the Holocaust, the 1915 Armenian genocide carried out by
the Ottomon Turks, and South Africa’s era of apartheid.

But treating these subjects is discretionary; they are not a formal
part of the schools’ history curriculum. School Commmittee member
Andrea Iannazzi wants to change that.

Iannazzi has introduced a resolution, to be taken up at Monday’s
board meeting, that would require that the high school history
curriculum formally include the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide and
apartheid, as well as the Irish potato famine of the 1840s and
atrocities committed under the fascist regime of Italy’s Benito
Mussolini.

Students should not have to wait for college, as she did, to learn
about such episodes, Iannazzi said.

“History curriculum often overlooks key issues that still impact
today’s society. Introducing a human rights component to Cranston’s
secondary history curriculum will affect our students’ decision
making. Whether it is racism, homophobia, prejudice or some other
cause, hatred and lack of respect for one’s basic human rights are
too often ignored,” she said.

Iannazzi’s resolution has the support of City Council President Aram
Garabedian — who sponsored a similar, failed resolution during his
time in the state House of Representatives — and Mayor Stephen P.
Laffey.

Laffey and Iannazzi said that outside of areas with a significant
Armenian-American population — such as Cranston — the Armenian
genocide in particular is a little-known event.

“I want every child who graduates from the Cranston School Department
to know what happened to the Armenians, and School Committee member
Iannazzi’s resolution is a tremendous step toward making this
happen,” Laffey said in a statement.

Iannazzi said that she expects there may be some opposition to her
proposal, out of concern that it could necessitate new textbooks or
teaching materials. Similar opposition killed Garabedian’s measure in
the House, she said.

She said that the curriculum amendment would cost the city nothing
because the topics are already covered in the schools. She said her
resolution, if approved, might lead to treating the topics in greater
depth but that she has identified activist organizations willing to
provide supplemental teaching materials at no cost.

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