“To Rialto Unified School District School Administrators: Don’t Be Moronic!” Sorry, But If You have To Write That Memo, It’s Already Too Late…

Assignment: Pro or Con: "Sarah Palin is the spawn of Satan." Cite authorities...

Assignment: Pro or Con: “Sarah Palin is the spawn of Satan.” Cite authorities…

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.


Source: JTA

22 thoughts on ““To Rialto Unified School District School Administrators: Don’t Be Moronic!” Sorry, But If You have To Write That Memo, It’s Already Too Late…

  1. But hey, even more centralized control, further incentivizing parental disconnection, with more layers of administrators, providing hiding places for these imbeciles, is probably the answer.

  2. Mohammed Z. Islam?? That his last name is actually “Islam” tells me that he’s a convert (perhaps a Nation of Islam type?) and therefore liable to be a REAL radical. There’s little difference between putting someone like this in charge of a school system then there would be if he was a member of the Aryan Nation. Similar attitudes- different only in that one is (apparently) politically correct while the other is not. Both would be liable to be Holocaust deniers.

    So, either way, Jews beware. Lapsed or practicing, you are fast becoming the world’s whipping boys once again. Your enemies are now in the process of “educating” non-Jewish children to despise you. This is a well-trodden road to calamity… as we all should know by now. And not just for Jews, either, but for the nation which allows it to occur.

  3. Holocaust denial sites are not simply absurd and risk making their readers more stupid, like flat-earth sites. Many of them are written by, and include other content typical of, racist and other hate groups. Far worse sites are commonly included in their links page. Not a big stretch to imagine students digging into them looking for more sources and content for their essays. I’m not a big fan of censoring the ugly as far as my kids go, but I’d rather not have their school require them to look it up.

  4. Without knowing more, I can’t say whether or not his was appropriate. But Holocaust denialism is up a lot in recent years, especially as most survivors are dead now, and the event retreats into history. So rather than simply tell students about the Holocaust, this could be an exercise in critical thinking. Students look up first-hand accounts, and learn to evaluate the relative merits of different sources. They investigate the claims of the Holocaust denial websites, and find out whether their claims hold up to empiric evidence.

    Actually, I don’t think any of the other questions (except for the sex with children one, for appropriateness) should be off limits. Let kids investigate settled truths to see if they hold up, and why. I think it would be a more dynamic and interesting way of teaching history rather just than lecturing at them.

    • THAT’s an interesting take. The problem is that there are no reliable, legitimate sources to support the PRO side of those questions, just bad ones and wrong ones. If the assignment was, “Some people claim that the Holocaust never happened, or is greatly exaggerated for propaganda purposes. Using only valid scholarly sources (and discrediting unreliable ones), investigate this proposition, and write your conclusions with supporting documentation,” I agree with you. But “pro” is false, and students shouldn’t be led to think otherwise. (My father liberated one of the concentration camps.) Of the questions:

      1. President Obama IS a citizen. No scholarly case could be made to rebut it.
      2 Are women an inferior gender? “Inferior” is a loaded term, and it can be used many ways. Probably not a good example—but also too nuanced for middle school.
      3. “Is sex with children OK if the child consents?” probably would have more impressive scholaship and authority supporting pro than the rest.
      4. “Were slaves happy?” is too shorthand…obviously some slaves were sometimes happy.
      5. “Is the Earth 10,000 years old?” No.
      6. “Was baseball invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, NY?” NO!!!! At this point, nobody believes that. It’s a legend.
      7. Was Paul Bunyan real? Oh, I guess you could find theories that he was based on someone real. There has never been anyone that big, in Minnesota or anywhere else. But it’s hard to prove a negative…

      • It’s not that I disagree with you. Of course the pro questions are false, which is why it makes a good beginning exercise for children to start thinking critically. Once they start examining the sources that those sites use, and compare them to the sources the con side uses, they can get away from that all too common thinking, “well, there are two sides to every story, and the truth is probably in the middle” reasoning that people use all too often. They learn to evaluate sources, and realize that just because someone cites a source doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a good source, something that they are going to desperately need in the age of Google.

        Closer questions are for later, once they have had a grounding in some of the easier to answer questions. Of course it all depends on how the lesson was presented, but on its face, I don’t think the assignment is automatically useless.

        • I have to admit, I was thinking along the same lines as deery on this one: It’s one thing to assign the students to write an advocacy essay. It’s quite another (and a different learning experience) to assign them to advocate a position that is objectively false–and false enough that none of them should already be agreeing with it before they start.

          It may even have been an exercise in seeing if any (or hopefully, how many) students would do the reading and research, and come to the conclusion of “No. The Holocaust DID happen and there is overwhelming evidence to support it.” The decision to choose integrity over “the assignment I was assigned” could have been a defining moment in many students’ lives.

          For those who DO write a pro-denier paper, there is still a valuable lesson about the difference between advocacy and sincere support or belief and/or doing the job assigned to you despite your own personal beliefs.

          …not that I actually believe that it WAS any of that. We’re talking about public schools, after all, and I’ve long since rescinded giving them the benefit of the doubt. But it COULD have been that, and if it were, it would have been powerful.


  5. This story hits me the wrong way because last night I was watching/listening to three hours of Nazi Hunters while I finished a gift that I’ve been knitting.
    It was on the American Heroes Channel and it included plenty of film footage from that time. Seeing and hearing about all of that…it makes me sick in my heart.
    If one of those kids was mine, I would go in and speak with the teacher/principle.

  6. Hey, Rodney King spent his last years in Rialto, California. I think I’d rather live in Barstow myself. Anyway, the Inland Empire city offer not much educational unless you like to watch freight trains go through.

  7. Don’t you mean the ADL, Jack. The Anti Defamatuin League. The JDL is considered a militia group as in Jewish Defense League and not one to write polite letters of protest to Superintendant Islam.

  8. Here’s a helpful hint for high school English teachers. Don’t assign a book (during Passover and a few days before Holocaust Remembrance) by the known anti-semite Alice Walker. For those who have missed this “gem,” she argues in Overcoming Speechlessness that Israelis are no different than Nazis and they should give the state of Israel to the Palestinians because it’s rightly theirs. But guess what, that’s exactly what happened in our school district a few weeks ago, and the principal’s last name is not Islam, but it might as well be.

  9. Well I’ll probably never bother to see “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth” even if Oprah recommends it. Alice Walker is all that you say from what I can tell.

  10. While it is an exercise in critical thinking it’s hardly a “good beginning exercise for children to start thinking critically.” This is akin to being thrown in the deep end. A good beginning exercise would be something like “Are moles and gophers beneficial or destructive.”
    It teaches the same skills without asking students to be exposed to agitprop. Deconstructing agitprop is essential, but it’s an advanced skill and not one that is best taught by a bunch of teachers who came up through what passes for intellectual freedom on today’s college campuses.

    • I also take issue with the fact that the assignment puts forth that there are some people who deny the holocaust happened. Here are their sources. Not only is it an inappropriate topic for middle schoolers, but the way the question is put loads the die in favor of the deniers. Hard enough learning critical thinking when you’re launched into a hornets’ nest headfirst – learning to do it while the teacher begs the question is a recipe for disaster. Unless one WANTS the children to be holocaust deniers.

  11. Ever hear of a long-term project called “Shoah?” Over the years, It has recorded 57,000 (!!) interviews with Holocaust survivors. Kudos to Steven Spielberg who started this project years ago, wanting to get these tapes done before all the survivors died out. Don’t suppose “Shoah” was a recommended reference by these kids’ teacher.

    Another reference: Dwight Eisenhower, who as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during (and after) World War II, demanded that the liberation of concentration camps be filmed, saying, “No one will believe this unless they see it.” Well in the age of photo-shopping, I suppose there are those who will think these tapes are fake. But did the teacher recommend research on the liberation of concentration camps, and Ike’s response to it? Likely not.

    This scares me. Who is “teaching” our children? Next, we’ll have essays assigned to 4th graders to examine the reality of evolution.

    Luckily, my son is 19, knows his own mind, does his own research, and went only briefly to public school. He was NOT completely saved from the morons and ideologues who are teaching our kids, however; luckily, his own intellectual curiosity and interest in history led him to other sources.

    So, our republic will soon be run by kids like the ones Marshall wrote about, who are filled with propaganda, moronic ideas and ideals, and unable to think for themselves. A dim future.

    • This horrible assignment encourages students to think that a denier site is equal to a project such as Shoah. The kids first need to know how to evaluate information based on who’s putting it out there.

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