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CA school to kids: look at both sides of Holocaust controversy

Posted by Richard on May 6, 2014

I kid you not: Eighth-graders in Rialto, California, were assigned to write an essay regarding the Holocaust. They were given 18-page instructions (!) that referred them to specific online sources they were to use, including a Holocaust-denial website. Their essays were to argue either for or against the claim that the Holocaust was a hoax.

Incredibly, the school district initially defended the assignment and said it had received no complaints from parents, teachers, or administrators. But after the Los Angeles area chapter of the Anti-Defamation League brought the matter to public attention, the school district said it would revise the assignment.

“It is ADL’s general position that an exercise asking students to question whether the Holocaust happened has no academic value; it only gives legitimacy to the hateful and anti-Semitic promoters of Holocaust Denial,” read an email to the school district from ADL Associate Regional Director Matthew Friedman.

The ADL posted a statement, including the quotes from Friedman, on its blog on Monday.

“ADL does not have any evidence that the assignment was given as part of a larger, insidious, agenda,” the blog post read. “Rather, the district seems to have given the assignment with an intent, although misguided, to meet Common Core standards relating to critical learning skills.”

Apparently because of this reference to Common Core standards, PJMedia’s Bryan Preston tried to make this a Common Core issue. I’m no fan of the top-down, one-size-fits-all Common Core standards, but this has nothing to do with them.

As for ADL’s statement regarding an agenda, I see at least some circumstantial evidence of one. We don’t know who is on the district’s CORE committee that created the assignment, but we do know who the superintendent and his spokeswoman are (emphasis added):

Interim Superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam was set to talk with administrators to “assure that any references to the holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future Argumentative Research assignments,” a statement from district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri read.

Why, yes, I am profiling.

I’m going to jump to another conclusion, too. I bet if students were told to write an essay defending either creationism or evolution, or arguing for or against anthropogenic global warming, and given sources to use for both sides of each issue, “progressive” parents and teachers would have been picketing noisily in front of the school district offices.

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