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“Where is the line of retreat?”: Challenges facing Armenian schools in Southern California

Shushan Karapetian


The existence of a long-standing and multifaceted Armenian Diaspora all over the world has been an endemic factor in the tumultuous history of the Armenian people. As a result, Armenians have acquired various integral tools to cope with functioning as a diasporic minority; the Armenian Church and School serving as the two most critical instruments in language and identity maintenance. The United States, particularly Southern California, hosts one of the largest Armenian populations outside of the Republic of Armenia. During the 2000 U.S. Census almost 400,000 Americans indicated either full or partial Armenian ancestry. Furthermore, the US Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey estimated that more than 165,000 Los Angeles County residents speak Armenian. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that there are eight Armenian schools throughout Southern California governed by the Board of Regents of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Over the past decade many of these schools have witnessed decreased enrollment and growing difficulties in implementing Armenian language curricula, resulting in the emergence of several committees and task forces established to reevaluate Armenian instruction. As a member of two such groups, I will discuss multiple deterrents to successful Armenian language instruction, explore the potential causes behind these challenges, and provide some prospective recommendations. 

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