- The Rialto Unified School District in Southern California found itself in hot water this week after an English/Language Arts assignment asked eighth graders to debate whether the Holocaust actually happened.
- Among the sources students were to use in the 18-page assignment was a source calling concentration camp gassings a "hoax" with no evidence, and also saying, "It is time we stop sacrificing America’s welfare for the sake of Israel and spend our hard-earned dollars on Americans.”
- District spokeswoman Syeda Jafri told The San Bernardino Sun that the assignment was meant to encourage critical thinking, but the assignment has been condemned by lawmakers, clergy, and the Los Angeles Anti-Defamation League.
Someone should have known better here. While critical thinking is important to instill in students, so is common sense. And common sense says that an assignment questioning the historically documented genocide of an estimated 11-million Jews and other non-Aryans is probably not going to sit well with a lot of people. Despite Jafri and school board member Joe Martinez's insistence that the assignment was developed to meet Common Core standards for critical thinking, the eighth grade teachers who designed it could likely have used a less controversial topic to meet those guidelines. The district has received numerous angry calls and at least one death threat, and Superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam says any assignments suggesting the Holocaust didn't occur will be removed from the curriculum.
According to The San Bernardino Sun, the assignment read: “When tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence. 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.”