Michigan Bill Calls for Curriculum on Genocide, Holocaust

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The Michigan Senate has passed a bill requiring more to be taught in schools across the state about genocide and the Holocaust.

Senate Bill 1075 requires students across the state to receive six hours of instruction on genocide, including time spent on the Holocaust, every year between the eighth and twelfth grade.  The bill was proposed by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.

The bill passed 37 to 0, although one lawmaker did not participate in the vote.

In addition, within 60 days of the bill becoming law, Governor Rick Snyder would be required to create the Governor’s Council on Genocide and Holocaust Educatin to advise the Michigan Department of Education on related curriculum.  According to the bill, the council would be paid for through private dollars rather than state funding.

Richardville said the bill was created in an effort to honor Holocaust survivors as well as military members who fought in World War II.

“People need to know why we fought in that world war and why we risked our lives for the lives of other humans,” Richardville said.

He added that his visit to Israel and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum and memorial in Jerusalem, greatly influenced his decision to write the bill.

“It’s one of the most incredible experiences you can go through, it really moved me a lot,” he said. “It’s the kind of thing we all need to be educated about, because how can something like that happen?”

The bill will now move on to the Michigan House of Representatives.  A similar measure was introduced by Representative Klint Kesto to that chamber earlier this year.

Kesto reported that he was influenced to introduce the bill due to the recent military actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq, which shows how genocide is still happening today.

“If we’re not teaching our kids what a Holocaust or a genocide is, then it will repeat itself,” he said. “And, here we are in 2014 and we can see one happening with our own eyes.”

Both bills would require that questions pertaining to the Holocaust and/or genocide are added to the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) and Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) tests beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.

If the bill were to become law, it could bring with it additional expenses for the Michigan Department of Education to ensure that curriculum fits standards set by the legislation.

The bill would need to pass before the end of the legislative session on December 18.

Recently, the US Holocaust Museum received a gift of $25 million from the William Levine family of Phoenix to be used for educational programming – the largest gift in the history of the museum.