It’s time for two holders of public office, one in the RoA and one in the USA, to exit the stage of public service.
First is Arayik Harutyunyan – Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports – whom I had the displeasure of meeting when he was in the Los Angeles area some months ago. He has proposed “reforms” of the RoA’s educational system that include making the study of Armenian history, language and literature elective at the college level. Currently, they are required.
So we are expected to believe that these topics being mandatory is a critical problem confronting Armenia’s educational system. It’s not the bribery-for-grades that has afflicted the system. It’s not rising costs. It’s not poorly paid teachers/professors.
For those of us living in the west, this may not seem like such a big deal. Many colleges/universities in the US no longer require such classes of their students. As long ago as the early eighties, as an engineering student, I did not have to take such classes. I just had to fulfill a generic “humanities” requirement of a few courses (I’ve forgotten how many). Ironically, in the context of this article, I took six courses in Armenian history and language!
But the RoA is not the USA, nor any other North or South American country, it is not even France, Greece, Russia or any European country. By this I mean that it is truly a (small) nation-state. The countries of the Americas are based on immigration from all over the world. They do not house nations in the proper sense of the word. The European countries, while housing nations in the proper sense of the word, are mostly much larger in population. Finally, none of them have been subjected to genocide. Our situation as a nation is far more precarious, requiring more TLC (tender loving care) towards that which makes us Armenian.
That’s why these reforms are wrong. If they are pursuing some agenda, I can’t even fathom what it is, since the proposal is just plain needless, pointless, and given the source, I would not be surprised if they were simply meant to irritate those who stand in opposition to this poorly chosen government minister.
Unsurprisingly, the proposals elicited protests. The ARF youth organization in Yerevan is leading these. Also unsurprisingly, Harutyunyan’s response has been dismissive and designed to distract attention from his flawed proposals. He has described them as “purely political actions” without substance. He has accused the ARF of “bad behavior” and tried to create rifts within the party by calling on its members outside of Armenia to, for lack of better terminology, “straighten out” their comrades in the RoA. He is practicing extreme partisanship by accusing others of being partisan. It’s a clever, but pathetically transparent ploy. He really should pack his bags and go back to teaching. Perhaps he can dupe some of his students into accepting whatever ideology it is that motivates him, though I doubt many would be that dumb.
Prime Minister Pashinyan seemed to act appropriately regarding all this, at least initially, by meeting with the protesters and making comments quite becoming of his position. I was pleased. Subsequently, I learned that he had commented something to the effect that even if 10,000 people protested and called for Harutyunyan’s removal, it would not happen. That’s unfortunate, since this minister is nothing but a political millstone around the prime minister’s neck.
Dump Harutyunyan, now, Mr. Prime Minister. It is best for the country.
Moving to the USA, we have had the displeasure to make the acquaintance of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. She is a Democrat representing the 30th Congressional District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives and serving her 13th term. She is African-American, a non-practicing registered nurse, and according to her own website “has a reputation as a stateswoman who works with both parties to get things done” among other things. I chose these three aspects of her life to expose the vileness of her vote against the Genocide resolution two and a half weeks ago.
As an African-American, and very likely a descendant of slaves, she should know well the horrors of human rights abuses. As a nurse and someone involved in groupings and issues that care for people, she should understand human and humanitarian needs. As a bipartisanship-inclined “stateswoman,” she should value the cooperation demonstrated by votes as overwhelming as that which H.Res 296 elicited.
Her “no” vote on the bill, cast in solidarity with her Turkish staffer is a massive political mistake. She should be ousted. Perhaps firing that staffer and apologizing profusely and publicly would change my mind. Otherwise, she should be challenged at election, coming soon in 2020, and driven, nay, humiliated, out of office.
I do not know the politics of her district, but if there is any homegrown opposition, the Armenian community should direct all available resources at making an example of her by supporting a viable opponent. Hopefully, she has made enough mistakes over the course of her four-plus decades in public office that people are ready to replace her.
Write to Pashinyan demanding Harutyunyan’s ouster (the latter is far too arrogant to have the decency to resign). Write to Johnson asking for her resignation, or watch her district for opposition to her and support the best candidate to knock her out of office.
A strong opposition is essential for any healthy democracy. There is plenty of which to criticize about the Armenian Government’s policies. For example, I think the Government’s fiscal policy is too restrictive as the projected exceedingly low 1.6% inflation rate attests. The Government should invest more in growth promoting infrastructure to complement the increased private investment, even if it means higher national debt. Unfortunately, the Pashinyan Government’s current opposition consists of nothing more than unfounded, mean spirited, inane, and naïve mudslinging. Opposing the proposed curriculum modification falls somewhere in this spectrum. I can’t think of any university curriculum anywhere that requires history and language outside of their specific majors. If an education system needs to teach these subjects in college, then it has a failing K-12 system. The persistence of these subjects in the Armenian Higher Education system is nothing more than a legacy of Soviet policy. Marxism and Soviet History were mandated subjects of all Higher Education curricula as part of the official campaign of propaganda and Russification. After independence, Armenians simply filled these slots with Armenian topics. At the time it may have made some sense because the population was ignorant of Armenian history. But that was 28 years ago. Since then there have been at least two full cycles of K-12 education, and it is no longer efficient to occupy valuable university time with subject that should be taught in primary schools.