A GIGANTIC mistake by teachers in a California 8th grade classroom where the students were given an assignment on Holocaust denial.
The Rialto Unified School District is defending an eighth-grade assignment that asks students to debate in writing whether the Holocaust was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain.”
The district says the assignment is merely to teach students to evaluate the quality of evidence made by advocates or opponents of an issue.
This was their assignment:
“When tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence,” the assignment reads. “For example, some people claim the Holocaust is not an actual historical event, but instead is a propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain. Based upon your research on this issue, write an argumentative essay, utilizing cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe the Holocaust was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain. Remember to address counterclaims (rebuttals) to your stated claim. You are also required to use parenthetical (internal) citations and to provide a Works Cited page.”
Talk about stoking conspiratorial thinking! That is outrageous. While perhaps the teachers’ intent was to show that the evidence for denialism is poor, this is an extremely bad way to illustrate that. Bringing up the topic this way give it completely undeserved credibility. There is no good QUALITY debate about their actual existence. We may argue about what happened and the causes but there is NO debate about 9/11 or the World Wars or plane crashes, etc.
What sort of references would the students have read in order to find opinions that support that the Holocaust never happened? Not sound academic ones, that’s for sure. Such absurd fringe ideas need to remain on the fringe, rejected by society for good reason. This was a TERRIBLE assignment for critical thinking.
The public outrage was appropriate.
For the first time since news broke of a controversial Holocaust essay assignment, the Rialto Unified School District school board took “full responsibility” for the task Wednesday night, telling a packed board chamber that the assignment was “horribly inappropriate.”
Elected officials, rabbis and residents filled the board’s meeting room to express their disapproval of the writing assignment that asked eighth-graders to argue for or against the reality of the Holocaust.”
The board statement read in part:
“The board and staff are deeply sorry for the hurt and propagation of misinformation caused by this assignment,” the statement began. “There was no intent to be hurtful, but due to a lack of critical thought and a lack of internal checks and balances, this project commenced and turned into a horribly inappropriate assignment.”
Indeed. If you see something like this, encouraging inappropriate denial of evidence about well established events in history or theories in science, you should absolutely speak out. Speaking out against the outrageous hint that a tragedy of human history was propaganda is the real exorcise in critical thinking.
Holcaust denialists distory historical facts to make their anti-Semitic case. They are the ones creating propaganda. I hope this turns into a teachable moment for the students.