The Rialto Unified School District has decided not to ask its eighth-grade students to argue whether the Holocaust happened after the assignment came under fire.
The decision to revise the assignment came Monday after it drew criticism from the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which called it “grotesque” in a statement issued that same day.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based center, said the district’s “assignment mistakenly provides moral equivalency between history and bigotry.”
School administrators planned to “assure that any references to the Holocaust ‘not occurring’ would be stricken from any research assignment,” KTLA-TV reported, citing a district statement.
Students were asked to research and write an argumentative essay about whether the Holocaust actually occurred or if it was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth.”
They were required to analyze information from multiple, credible sources.
That is rich. Wait until you read, in a story from local news station KTLA, what those “multiple, credible sources” are.
The 18-page assignment instructions included three sources that students were told to use, including one that stated gassings in concentration camps were a “hoax” and that no evidence has shown Jews died in gas chambers.
“With all this money at stake for Israel, it is easy to comprehend why this Holocaust hoax is so secretly guarded,” states the source, which is a attributed to a webpage on biblebelievers.org.au. “In whatever way you can, please help shatter this profitable myth. It is time we stop sacrificing America’s welfare for the sake of Israel and spend our hard-earned dollars on Americans.”
The other sources were from the websites history.com and about.com.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think we just discovered the root of the journalistic problem at the Los Angeles Times. When they base one of their stories on “multiple credible sources” they mean a collection of crackpots and random generalist Internet sites, including ones that rely one sites editable by anyone.
As Ed Morrissey aptly notes: “Really? Why not add Wikipedia in there, too? If the school wanted to teach critical thinking, why not start by teaching students to look for primary sources?”
Unlike many, I have mixed feelings about this assignment. In an ideal world of school competition, no subject should be off-limits for critical thinking — and, done correctly, this could be a smashing assignment. You get students to look at these sites, write their essays, and then hit them over the head with the facts. As Instapundit notes:
[W]hen then-Gen. Eisenhower liberated Europe from the Nazis, he very deliberately ordered their concentration camps to be filmed and otherwise thoroughly documented, lest such staggering atrocities become attributed to “propaganda.”
Yup. So what you do is, you let the kids do their research and write their papers. Then you tell them in no uncertain terms that this happened. That it was well documented. That the documentation was done for a reason: because we knew there would always be crackpots like that Internet page we showed you.
It would teach kids about the dangers of relying on random bullshit from the Internet. And that is an absolutely critical skill these days. One that L.A. Times reporters have not absorbed.
Here’s the problem. In a world where we get to choose our children’s schools, I could get behind an assignment like that, because I could have control over whether it’s done right — and if it’s not, I can go to the competition.
But I don’t trust government-run schools, with their allegiance to Common Core and all the rest, to do it right. And this story shows why.