In a move that prompted a horde of protests and even death threats to school administrators, the Rialto Unified School District in Southern California assigned eighth grade students an essay on whether the Holocaust occurred or was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain."
The Pasadena Star-News described the assignment:
The assignment was given to Rialto Unified’s approximately 2,000 eighth-grade students in April, requiring them to cite sources for their point of view.
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.
Echoing anti-Semitic claims, eighth graders were asked to read at least three articles on the subject including one claiming The Diary of Anne Frank was a hoax and another claiming the US was sacrificing its welfare for the sake of Israel.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, told FoxNews.com on Monday:
“Whatever (the district’s) motivation, it ends up elevating hate and history to the same level. We should train our kids to have critical thinking, but the problem here is the teacher confused teaching critical thinking with common sense, because common sense dictates you don’t comingle propaganda with common truth.”
Cooper added that although teaching children about the nature of propaganda is a worthy lesson plan, the district would have been better off having children research Holocaust denial, while meeting with local survivors of the genocide.
The ADL claimed the assignment was wrong but made without evil intent. They do, however, point to another problem with Common Core standards:
ADL does not have any evidence that the assignment was given as part of a larger, insidious, agenda,” the blog post concludes. “Rather, the district seems to have given the assignment with an intent, although misguided, to meet Common Core standards relating to critical learning skills.
The district was deluged with phone calls at least one of which went over the line:
And it also generated another phone call: a death threat, phoned in around 9 a.m. to Jafri, threatening both her life and that of interim superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam.
Local police took the threat seriously.
The threats “meet the elements of a terrorist threat and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Rialto Police Captain Randy DeAnda said Monday afternoon.
The district released a statement late Monday promising that the interim superintendent will be speaking with its educational services department to “assure that any reference to Holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future argumentative research assignments.”