Michigan Workshop Promotes Awareness among Educators

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Committed to their mission to promote awareness of and gain U.S. recognition for the first genocide of the 20th century, a local group of Armenian-American activists hosted the sixth educator’s workshop in Michigan on the Armenian Genocide.

Participants working in a small group
Participants working in a small group

Richard Norsigian, a member of the group as well as an educator, arranged the 2013 workshop with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. The group set the date for Thurs., April 18, and sent an open invitation to secondary educators in the area. To date the group has hosted workshops in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties with over 175 Michigan educators participating.

Working in collaboration with the Boston-based educational organization Facing History and Ourselves, the workshop provided an introduction to the Armenian Genocide as well as the basis for more in-depth study with instructional materials for course work and access to teaching resources. Since 1976, Facing History and Ourselves has offered an interdisciplinary approach to citizenship education that connects the history of the Holocaust and other examples of genocide to the moral questions young people face in their own lives.

Dr. Mary Johnson, the facilitator and one of the founding members of Facing History, said her interest in human rights stemmed from her father’s role as a lawyer in the Nuremberg Trials, and was made stronger by her service to the Peace Corps. Using text and video and asking the educators to work together in small groups on hypothetical responses to escalating animosities between ethnic, religious, and political groups, she presented the concept of a “universe of obligation,” and segued into the history of the Armenian Genocide and a discussion on how a genocide evolves.

The workshop was organized by the Armenian Genocide Group and sponsored by the Knights of Vartan, Metro Detroit Chapter, an organization founded to inspire and encourage its members to support cultural, educational, religious, and charitable organizations and activities on a local, national, and international level. The Armenian Genocide Group includes Knights of Vartan members, as well as Ed Bedikian, Ray Boujoulian, Richard Norsigian, David Terzibashian, and Paul Kulhanjian.

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