Education

Michigan set to require genocide education for high school students

Posted June 27

Holocaust denial won't fly in Michigan if the Legislature and governor have their way. A new law will require six hours of class time between 8th and 12th grades to study genocide, according to the Associated Press. The law specifically requires attention to the massacres of Jews under the Nazis and the Armenian genocide during World War I, perpetrated by the Turkish regime. The Holocaust is thought to have cost 6 million lives, the Armenian genocide 1.5 million.

Michigan joins a handful of other states that already specifically require Holocaust and genocide education, including Florida, New Jersey, Illinois, California and New York. Each of those adopted its genocide education law in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

The move by Michigan comes amidst worldwide concern over efforts to whitewash the history of some of the 20th century's most awful crimes.

Iran earlier this month held its third annual Holocaust cartoon festival.

"Why does Iran allow a cartoon festival on the Holocaust?" the New Yorker asked Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. He retorted by pointing to the Ku Klux Klan. "Don’t consider Iran a monolith. The Iranian government does not support, nor does it organize, any cartoon festival of the nature that you’re talking about. When you stop your own organizations from doing things, then you can ask others to do likewise."

But critics note that Iran does not suffer from an abundance of free speech, and Holocaust denial fits the regime's agenda. “Senior Iranian officials have for many years systematically promoted Holocaust denial and distortion,” Tad Stahnke, who heads the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Initiative on Holocaust Denial and Antisemitism, told The Washington Post.

In much of Europe, Holocaust denial is a crime. This has long been true in Germany and Austria. Earlier this month, the Italian Parliament passed a law mandating up to six-year prison terms for Holocaust denial in an effort to combat creeping anti-semitism that often attends denial of those events.

“From now on, those who deny the Shoah know they will no longer be able to spread their delusions without receiving their punishment,” the president of the Rome Jewish community, Ruth Dureghello, told the Israeli publication, Haaretz.

Michigan's teachers will have a new class resource in September, with the release of a new film starring Rachel Weisz, appropriately titled "Denial." The film tells the story of Deborah Lipstadt's legal battle in Britain, when she was sued in the 1990s by a Holocaust denier named David Irving for calling him a Holocaust denier.

To defend herself under British law, which puts the burden on the defense in a libel case, she had to prove that the Holocaust happened. Irving later served time in prison in Austria for Holocaust denial.

The Armenian and Jewish victims are not the only issues worthy of addressing, Gov. Rick Snyder said in a letter with his signature on the bill, but teachers are left discretion about how to expand the curriculum beyond those.

"There are, unfortunately, other instances of atrocities that would be beneficial for students to learn about regardless of whether they meet a certain definition," Snyder wrote. "When and how to teach students about these events would be best left to the educational experts trained to do so."

Email: eschulzke@deseretnews.com

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