Rep. Jim Wilson

courtesy of the Colorado Channel via Youtube Rep. Jim Wilson, a Republican from Salida and a former school superintendent, cautioned the Colorado House about adding to teachers’ workloads during the floor debate on a bill regarding media literacy in schools on April 12.

During the four-month legislative session that began Wednesday, you can bet 100 lawmakers will haggle over taxing and spending, lowering the cost of health care and educating the state’s children.

Yet they inevitably will talk about how best to educate other people’s children.

Alex Burness of The Denver Post was the first to report last month on a proposed bill to mandate Colorado schools teach about genocide and holocaust .

Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Democrat from Commerce City and former director of the Holocaust Awareness Institute at the University of Denver, told Burness she plans to carry the bill with Democratic Rep. Emily Sirota of Denver.

The Jewish Holocaust, of course, comes first to mind, but the lessons could extend to the Armenian genocide and the fate of Native Americans.

My friend Simon Maghakyan flagged the legislation to my attention. A college educator who previously worked for Amnesty International as a human rights specialist, Maghakyan is an Armenian immigrant who is running for House District 7 in Denver this year.

A grassroots organizer in the Western U.S. for the Armenian National Committee of America, Simon was my main point of contact, along with former Republican state Rep. Cole Wist, in 2018 when the Legislature renamed a portion of Arapahoe Road the Sardarapat Armenian Memorial Highway to honor a critical but nearly forgotten World War I battle.

“Educating our youth about the dangers of bullying, dehumanization, racism and unchecked government power is a public safety issue, which is why all middle and high public schools in Colorado should teach about the worst crime under international law — genocide,” he told me.

History and math tell me Democrats, if they stick together, can pass it, without the help of Republicans. Republicans have crossed over these issues before, but education advocates from both parties are tiring of adding to a struggling state curriculum.

Last year Democrats passed House Bill 1192 to provide more teaching on the history, culture and social contributions of Native Americans, Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and the LGBTQ communities. The bill, which picked up a few Republican votes, was sponsored by Reps. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez of Denver and Bri Buentello of Pueblo with Sen. Julie Gonzales of Denver.

Also last year, lawmakers passed and Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 1110 to help school kids spot fake news, essentially.

The bill was a half-step, as new government programs go. The bill told the state commissioner of education to appoint a committee and set aside about $20,000 to pay for some research. The result of that studying and deliberating is to inform the next steps.

The legislation was introduced in the House by freshman Rep. Lisa Cutter of Littleton and carried in the Senate by one of the Legislature’s strongest education advocates, Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood.

“I believe in the power of honest, fair and ethical communications,” Cutter said on the House floor last April when she pitched the bill. “As a society our decisions are only as good as the information we take in to form our opinions.”

It’s vital for kids to recognize the difference between when they’re being informed and when they’re being manipulated, she said.

“They’re constantly inundated with information, and we must prepare them to deal with this,” Cutter said.

I agree with that. If I could dance the Stanky Leg in the town square to make it so, I would. My Stanky Leg is terrible. I would do a lot more than that to impress upon children the depravity of holocausts.

Last session Republican Rep. Jim Wilson got up and spoke on the media literacy bill, and it continues to complicate my thinking, however.

I’ve followed Wilson around the school buildings in Salida where he was a principal and superintendent. I’ve seen with my own eyes how faculty and parents hover around him. I’ve heard about the children he continues to mentor, including local boys who are fatherless who are lucky to have Big Jim to teach them to fish, hunt and treat others squarely.

“These are our students,” he said after nodding to Colorado’s low assessment scores on reading, writing and math, much less getting ahead in science, technology and engineering, the way kids in Canada are.

More than half of Colorado’s eighth-graders aren’t proficient in English, basically nouns, verbs and punctuation, before asking them to assess the differences between Fox News and CNN, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton or a meme versus a study.

“We’re talking about adding curriculum at a time our students are struggling,” Wilson argued in vain, before the bill passed the House on a party-line vote.

Hardly a demagogue on education — Capitol insiders know Wilson is the father of the Democratic governor’s full-day kindergarten initiative — he agrees media literacy would be good for students, “but it’d be good if they pulled the word ‘media’ up on their screen and they were able to read it.”

Wilson continued, “Where is the outrage in this chamber that our students are performing miserably on those assessments? Quit putting extra things on our educators and let them teach kids how to read and write, do math and understand social studies.”

The difference is as tangible as what you have and what you want.

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