- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Older schoolchildren must be taught about the Holocaust and the 1915 massacre of Armenians under a bill that won approval Wednesday in the Senate.

The lessons would be taught at some point between grades 8-12, according to the bill by Republican Rep. Klint Kesto, and Gov. Rick Snyder would have to make appointments to a 15-member genocide education panel. The bill says instruction doesn’t need to be limited to the Armenian massacre and the Holocaust, but those were the only two formally acknowledged in the legislation.

Though the House approved it once, the bill will go back to that chamber for consideration before needing a signature from Snyder. Kesto said he hopes that happens next week.

Eleven other states require instruction on the Armenian massacre, according to the Genocide Education Project.

Historians estimate that as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in an event widely viewed by scholars as genocide, a term the legislation also uses. But Turkey, a key U.S. partner and NATO ally, denies the deaths constituted genocide and has said the death toll has been inflated. President Barack Obama also recently broke campaign promises to have the U.S. acknowledge the massacre as a genocide.

No senators made speeches about controversy in how the mass killings are characterized. An estimated 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust during World War II.

Democratic state Sen. Steven Bieda offered an amendment Wednesday, which was narrowly defeated to also include instruction on the massacres in Darfur, Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia and others.

“I thought it was a little Eurocentric,” Bieda said of the bill. “Unfortunately genocide or ethnic cleansing issues in the last century have not been extremely rare.”

GOP state Sen. Phil Pavlov, who chairs the Senate committee that approved the legislation, urged other Republicans to vote no on the amendment, which failed 18-19. It’s unclear why he asked colleagues to vote no. The Associated Press reached out to Pavlov, who has not responded.

There is no state requirement to provide Holocaust or genocide education, Michigan Department of Education spokesman Bill DiSessa said, though noted there’s no question that high schoolers in the state learn about the Holocaust.


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