Bebo Simonian: Hayagerdum yev Mangavarjutiun

The Armenian Reporter (New York)10 May 1997

BOOK REVIEW

Bebo Simonian, Hayagerdum yev Mangavarjutiun [Armenian-formation and  Pedagogy], Beirut: Shirak Press, 1996. pp 360. 

By Hratch Tchilingirian 

Preservation of the Armenian identity (hayabahbanum) is one of the most talked about subjects in the Armenian Diaspora.  One could even say that hayabahbanum has been the raison d’être of the Diaspora, at least until the independence of Armenia.  Bebo Simonian, a Lebanese-Armenian educator, essayist, and poet, in his recently published Hayagerdum yev Mangavarjutiun, adds a new conceptual perspective to the discussion of Armenian identity in the Diaspora: the “formation of the Armenian identity” (hayagerdum). As experience in the last decades shows, perpetuation without formation is a futile endeavor. 

Armenian-formation and  Pedagogy is a collection of essays dealing with pedagogical issues in the context of Armenian education in the Diaspora, particularly as it relates to the Armenian community in the Middle East. They are based on Simonian’s decades of experience as an Armenian teacher and school principal. 

Simonian lays out the general pedagogical issues in the formation of students--starting from kindergarten to high school students--and underlines the importance of well developed, relevant and modern educational curricula in the process of the formation of the youth.  “New educational values should advance the educational level of students, contribute to their moral and national character, and enhance success in their future.” 

The author turns particular attention to the decline of interest in Armenian studies in Lebanon.  In the past, large number of youth chose Armenian studies as an area of specialization and were sent to institutions of higher education to deepen their “intellectual and cultural formation”.  However, today, due to the lack of “enthusiastic educators” in Armenian secondary schools, the numbers have declined to an alarming level. 

For Bebo Simonian, the future of Western Armenian (language and literature) primarily depends on the Armenian schools in the Middle East. Ironically, the problem also stems from there.  As Simonian writes, “our society no longer expects intellectuals, journalists, writers, or teachers to come from Armenian schools.”  Even more, “our society does not expect the next generation of Armenians to be fluent in Western Armenian.”   Without a drastic shake up and improvement in the approach toward Armenian education,  “the threats that emanate from our schools in the Middle East would continue to cause their damage.  We have to accept that today we are not producing a generation of Armenians who are proficient in Western Armenian.” 

In the last section of the book, “The Armenians of Tomorrow”, a selection of addresses given over the years to the graduating classes of Armenian schools, Simonian captures the true spirit of the Armenian educator: “Whatever we’ve given you from our soul, time, mind, breath and knowledge, as dedication and sacrifice, have returned to us sweeter and more meaningful, because we believe, and I hope you also believe, that a man is happier and wealthier when he gives than when he receives.” 

Armenian-formation and  Pedagogy, with its engaging discussions of timely issues, is a welcome contribution to an area of study and concern in the Armenian Diaspora--namely education and Armenian identity--about which so little has been written. Armenian-formation and Pedagogy could serve as a useful and thought-provoking resource to Armenian teachers, educators, school boards and those interested in Armenian education in the Diaspora. 

Bebo Simonian’s literary career expands over three decades.  As a prolific writer and intellectual of the Lebanese-Armenian community, he has authored over dozen books and numerous articles on Armenian literature, culture, history and political life.  From 1975-1995, he was the dean of Sahagian L. Megerdichian College in Beirut. He is also the author of  Human Rights Issues (Martgayin iravantz hartzer) published in Beirut, in 1995. 

London

Hratch Tchilingirian
1997-05-10
e-mail: info@hrach.info
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