NEWS AND VIEWS
Ukrainian American Academic Association represents Ukraine's interests at convention
CARMICHAEL, Calif. - Ukrainian interests were represented at the 1996 National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Convention in Washington by the Ukrainian American Academic Association of California (UAAAC). This is not the first such convention where the UAAAC spoke out in the name of truth in American school textbooks. The UAAAC was present at six previous annual conventions held in various cities throughout the United States.
The Ukrainian kiosk was richly stocked with publications from the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press and Yevshan Publications of Montreal, plus more than a dozen free handouts prepared by the UAAAC.
The convention lasted for three days beginning on November 23, 1996, at the prestigious Sheraton Washington Hotel in Washington. The purpose of the annual convention is to give American educators of all levels the opportunity to meet publishers of school textbooks, magazines, maps, atlases, and other materials and devices that are used in America's educational institutions. Convention participants also include organizations and groups representing diverse interests that contribute to the educational process.
UAAAC, a California-based organization, founded in 1986 by Dr. Al Naklowycz, president, and Yuriy Oliynyk, its treasurer has one main purpose on its agenda: to correct, change, and supplement misleading and incomplete information about Ukraine now being taught in American grade schools, high schools and colleges. This is no small undertaking, considering the fact that there are over 50 publishers of school materials in the U.S. and most of them update or revise their textbooks only once every seven years.
The Ukrainian Historical Association, the Shevchenko Scientific Society, the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and Ukrainian scholars at the University of Toronto, University of Alberta and other American and Canadian universities are doing an admirable job in providing books, research papers and lectures that present true and unbiased historical and geographical information about Ukraine. Such information undoubtedly will be absorbed into the mainstream as American and Canadian scholarship and eventually will find its way down to the level of grade school textbooks. This, however, will take a whole generation or at least 25 years to show some positive results in kindergarten through grade 12 in the American and Canadian School systems (this is known as the "trickle down process").
It took a couple of California enthusiasts to form an organization that would attack the problem from below. Having established good relations with the California Department of Education in 1986, when the Holocaust and Genocide Committee was formed in order to provide a comprehensive genocide curriculum for California schools, these writers decided to work on the problem through the newly formed organization.
The task required establishing contacts with the majority of textbook publishers in the U.S., and with the help of the California Department of Education, attempting to correct the false and biased information from the lowest levels and up. The main idea revolved around the premise that once the California Department of Education became receptive to such changes, the publishers would follow suit, since California constitutes one of the largest textbook markets in the United States.
Not all the publishers proved responsive to such appeals, but fortunately one of the largest publishing houses responded positively. A number of positive corrections in regard to Ukraine and Eastern Europe were already introduced into their textbooks. However, the process is not easy; it takes endless revisions of chapters, paragraphs, sentences, spelling corrections and additions to the existing text in order to win some concessions.
After 10 years of consultations with Ukrainian experts at various universities and constant collaboration with the above publishing house, plus personal meetings at the annual NCSS conventions, the UAAAC can finally see some concrete results of this seemingly endless task.
The main advances concern the presentation of Kyivan Rus' as the predecessor of modern Ukraine and not of Russia. Muscovy, once a vassal state on the peripheries of Kyivan Rus' should be considered the legitimate predecessor of today's Russia. The California State Department of Education is presently issuing an amendment to the California History-Social Science Framework (1988) to that effect. Even the information about the Suzdal prince, Andrei Bogoliubsky, who attacked, plundered and completely ruined Kyiv in 1169 in order to escape paying taxes, was at least generally mentioned in one textbook after lengthy negotiations.
One important document, the Model Curriculum for Human Rights and Genocide was published in 1988 for the California State Board of Education by the State Department of Education in 1988. This document includes the Ukrainian Famine of 1933 in Appendix B. The UAAAC now feels confident that, after such corrections and additions. favorable to Ukraine are introduced in books destined for California schools, other states will have no choice but to buy these corrected textbooks for their school systems. Smaller publishers will undoubtedly follow suit and correct their information in the near future.
The credibility of the UAAAC at the California State Department of Education was greatly boosted in 1990, after the UAAAC reviewed a video-textbook combination created by the University of North Carolina glorifying the "democratic" Soviet Union with "perestroika" and "glasnost" and presenting Mikhail Gorbachev as the main hero. On this video, smiling Ukrainian school children listened to Russian folk tales and dutifully responded in Russian to their teachers' questions. The UAAAC dissuaded the California State Department of Education from buying this video-textbook combination on the grounds that, with the new economic and political freedoms introduced by Mr. Gorbachev, the Soviet Union would begin disintegrating within a year. This, of course, proved to be true and the California State Department of Education saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by declining to buy this "educational" tool for its school system.
As in previous years, the UAAAC couldn't have successfully arranged its exhibit in Washington without the help of local patriotic individuals who provided transportation, loaned tables, chairs and art objects for the exhibit, plus storage space for the heavy boxes full of books. They also helped tend the exhibit booth during the convention. (Special thanks must go to Dr. Larry and Donna Kalynevych and Dr. Jerry and Lesya Lorentz of Washington for their assistance and support.)
The UAAAC is supported solely by the dues of its members and a few generous contributors who believe in this important cause. Individuals who wish to become members or would like to offer their assistance in this important educational process may contact: Ukrainian-American Academic Association of California, 4935 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael, CA 95608; telephone, (916) 482-0356.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, March 9, 1997, No. 10, Vol. LXV
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