On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen wrote in detail about the opposition to a bill requiring that examples of genocide be taught in Massachusetts public schools. State Senator Michael Rodrigues of Westport and State Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin “filed the Genocide Education Act, which would require that schools teach about the Holocaust and other genocides, including but not limited to the genocides of Armenians, the Holodomor in Ukraine, the Pontic Greek genocide, and the post-Holocaust genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Sudan.”
“Nearly half of the 200 members of the state House and Senate have signed on as cosponsors. The bill, however, is stuck in committee…according to Robert Trestan, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL and Armenian National Committee are leading a coalition advocating that teaching about genocide should be mandatory,” stated Cullen.
The coalition of over 25 organizations organized three panels of experts and advocates to testify at the public hearing before the Joint Committee on Education. They included Professor Taner Akcam of Clark University, Watertown Public Schools social studies coordinator Kraig Gustafson, Seda Aghamianz of the Genocide Education Project and former Boston City Councilor Mike Ross. Among the dozen others testifying in support of the bill were Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and Dikran Kaligian of the ANC of Eastern Massachusetts.
“Many advocates say the bill is bottled up in the Education Committee because the committee chair, Representative Alice Peisch, is not in favor of mandates and doesn’t believe teaching about genocide will reduce hateful acts. Peisch was not available for an interview, but in a statement said her committee is continuing to ‘research and review’ the bill. She said her committee is ‘trying to determine if the legislation as filed is sufficient to achieve the bill’s objective, and will be considering alternative language that could do more to address the concerns of many parents, advocates, and legislators.’”
Citing the phrase “never again,” which has served as a call to action intended to prevent further genocides, Cullen emphasized the need for genocide education by pointing out that “two-thirds of American millennials don’t even know what Auschwitz is and presumably fewer know what happened to Armenians before the Holocaust or Rwandans after the Holocaust.” He also noted, “Teaching about the civil rights movement has not made racists go away, either. But it has produced generations of young people who know who Martin Luther King Jr. was, who recognize that this country used to be segregated and that prejudice and bigotry were codified, generations who reject that kind of hateful thinking.” It is noteworthy that the state’s superintendents and school committees support the legislation.