Here’s a helpful hint for middle school teachers: if you are going to ask your students to write essays arguing that the the Holocaust never happened, the fact that your Interim School Superintendent is named “Mohammad Z. Islam” may raise some eyebrows with the JDL. Honestly, when I read this story and saw that name, I was sure it was a hoax that had been picked up by the news media.
Nope. The name is real, but more disturbing, the eighth grade writing assignment in California’s Rialto Unified School District required students to write advocacy essay, based on authority and research, mind you, on “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 wealth.” Future topics for pro and con debate:
- Is President Obama a citizen?
- Are women an inferior gender?
- Is sex with children OK if the child consents?
- Were slaves happy?
- Is the Earth 10,000 years old?
- Was baseball invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, NY?
- Was Paul Bunyan real?
OK, those silly and or offensive topics aren’t really on the curriculum. But every one of them is as valid as “Was the Holocaust real?”
Incredibly, the assignment was in connection with a unit on “The Diary of Anne Frank.” And really, how do we know that Anne Franks wasn’t some clever, male, middle aged ghostwriter who created the diary as a hoax?
The students were required to use outside sources to make their argument, and their teachers referred them to some Holocaust denial sites. Incredibly, no parents complained about the assignment, perhaps because the parents in the school district are as ignorant as the teachers and administrators. Superintendent Islam said he would caution administrators to make sure that “any references to the Holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future Argumentative Research assignments,” explained the district’s spokeswoman, who also said that an academic team from the school district would meet to change the assignment.
Call me a stickler for competence, but any teacher or administrator who needs to be told that they need to avoid suggesting that there is a legitimate question of whether the Holocaust occurred should be compelled to find a less intellectually demanding profession, like elevator operator or pet rock. If such dolts aren’t telling kids to argue that the Jews weren’t gassed, then they’ll be calling the police because some kid formed his fingers into the shape of a gun. Also an unacceptable assignment for a middle school essay: make an argument, pro or con, that gross incompetents and ignoramuses should be given the authority to mistreat and mis-educate children.
There is no pro.