Michigan Holds Signing Ceremony for Genocide Education Bill

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By Danielle Saroyan

Last week, the Michigan State Government held a signing ceremony at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan for the Genocide Education: Governor’s Advisory Council & Curriculum and Assessment, House Bill 4493. This bill was approved by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder on June 13, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).

HB 4493 was spearheaded by State Representative Klint Kesto with strong support of the Armenian Genocide Education Committee (AGEC), Armenian Assembly Michigan Director John Jamian, and the entire community. Jamian, an active member of the AGEC, was also a former Member of the Michigan House of Representatives as well as past Executive Director of the Armenian Assembly.

“This foundation was laid since Edgar Hagopian and I started working on it over 15 years ago. Thank you to former Governor John Engler and the legislature for officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide by embedding it into State Law in 2002,” Jamian stated. “We worked tirelessly to get this accomplished and today we have a new education law that builds upon those earlier foundations. What a fitting tribute to the Armenian Genocide Education Committee and to our survivors.”

During the ceremony, AGEC Chairman Ed Haroutunian thanked Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for signing HB4493 into law, as well as other State Senators and Assembly members in support of this bill.

“The passing of Michigan HB4493 ultimately resulted because the Jewish community and the Armenian community worked together for a common purpose,” Haroutunian said during the ceremony. “I’d like to think that the Holocaust and Armenian Genocide victims would approve of this legislation to allowing Michigan high school students to learn of past atrocities in an effort to prevent them from recurring in the future. Governor Snyder, thank you very much for signing the bill into law. We look forward to working with you in the implementation of the law,” he added.

HB 4493 amends the Revised School Code and requires that the Michigan’s social studies curriculum in high school and state-wide assessment program include instruction and testing about genocides, including the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. In addition, the bill establishes the Governor’s Council on Genocide and Holocaust Education as a temporary commission. The 15-member council, set up by Governor Snyder, would be advisory and privately funded.

“On behalf of the Armenian Assembly, I would like to thank John Jamian, the Armenian Genocide Education Committee, and the Michigan Legislature for supporting progressive ideas of human rights education that helps prepare better citizens to face future challenges,” Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny said.

Michigan follows six other U.S. states that have approved genocide curriculum mandates, including Illinois, California, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.

For other resources on Armenian Genocide education, see the Armenian National Institute’s page, “Armenian Genocide and Human Rights Curricula.

Photo Caption: Armenian Genocide Education Commitee (AGEC) and Armenian Assembly of America Michigan Director John Jamian at the signing ceremony in Farmington Hills, Michigan on June 26 with Governor Rick Snyder.

Genocide Education Bill in Michigan Signed into Law

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, House Bill 4493,
Genocide Education: Governor’s Advisory Council & Curriculum and
Assessment, was signed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, reported the
Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).

“Our next generation of
leaders needs to have the wherewithal to recognize and help prevent
widespread harm to their fellow men and women,” Snyder stated.
“Teaching the students of Michigan about genocide is important because
we should remember and learn about these terrible events in our past
while continuing to work toward creating a more tolerant society.”

Thanks to the
leadership and efforts of the Armenian Genocide Education Committee
(AGEC), Assembly Michigan Director John Jamian, and the entire
community, HB 4493 Genocide Education bill is now law. Jamian, an active
member of the AGEC, was also a former Representative in the Michigan
legislature as well as past Executive Director of the Armenian
Assembly.  Jamian, upon reflecting on this achievement, recalled his
colleague and former Assembly Board Member Edgar Hagopian’s tireless
advocacy in championing genocide affirmation both at the state and
federal level.  Hagopian, who passed away in 2011, served as a Board
Member from 1998 to 2003.

“I am elated we finally
accomplished making this important genocide educational program into
Michigan law,” Jamian said. “This success demonstrates that when our
community leaders all work together we can accomplish great things. I
give special credit to our AGEC Chairman Edward Haratounian for his
leadership and all of the members in getting to this important
milestone,” he added.

HB 4493, sponsored by
Representative Klint Kesto, amends the Revised School Code and requires
that the Michigan’s social studies curriculum in high school and
state-wide assessment program include instruction and testing about
genocides, including the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. In
addition, the bill establishes the Governor’s Council on Genocide and
Holocaust Education as a temporary commission. The 15-member council,
set up by Governor Snyder, would be advisory and privately funded.

“The Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust cannot be forgotten,” said
State Senator Marty Knollenberg (R-MI), son of former Congressional
Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Chair Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI). “I’m
proud to stand with both Democrats and Republicans to ensure they are
remembered by Michigan’s next generations.”

The official
legislation states: “Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, the board
of a school district or board of directors of a public school academy
shall ensure that the school district’s or public school academy’s
social studies curriculum for grades 8 to 12 includes age- and
grade-appropriate instruction about genocide.” The state assessment for
social studies will “include questions related to the learning
objectives in the state board recommended model core academic curriculum
standards concerning genocide, including, but not limited to, the
Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide.” According to this bill, a combined
total of 6 hours of genocide instruction will be mandatory during
grades 8 to 12.

Furthermore, the
Michigan school board will promote “engendering and coordinating events,
activities, and education that will appropriately memorialize the
victims of the Armenian Genocide, such as observance of the Michigan
Days of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.”

In addition to the legislation in Michigan, this year the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) included the Armenian Genocide in its planned curriculum
as part of its mission to develop materials and lesson plans for
genocide education in elementary, middle, and high schools. The Assembly
reached out to ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in appreciation of the
background material regarding the Armenian Genocide and the resources
provided in the ADL’s Spring 2016 high school lesson plan entitled “The
Struggle to Prevent Genocide: Genocide and the Global Response.”

For other curricula, see the Armenian National Institute’s page, “Armenian Genocide and Human Rights Curricula.”

Michigan follows six other U.S. states
that have approved genocide curriculum mandates, including Illinois,
California, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.

Established in 1972,
the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based
nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of
Armenian issues. The Assembly is a 501©(3) tax-exempt membership
organization.