It did not go over well when a California school district asked students to write an essay debating whether the Holocaust was a historical event or “a propaganda tool.”
Rialto Unified School District instructed eighth-graders to “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,” according to the San Bernardino Sun, which first reported the April assignment on Sunday.
A spokeswoman said Monday that the school district was convening an academic team to revise the assignment.
“This was a mistake. It should be corrected. It will be corrected,” district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri told Los Angeles news station KTLA in an interview. “We all know it was real. The Holocaust is not a hoax. … I believe our classroom teachers are teaching it with sensitivity and compassion.”
Originally, Jafri had defended the assignment to the San Bernardino Sun as an exercise in “developing critical thinking skills” and said the school district hadn’t received any complaints.
But since the assignment was publicized, school district officials received phone calls from a man who claimed to be nearby and issued death threats, Jafri told KTLA.
The Los Angeles chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, which reached out to the school district Friday to express concern about the assignment, said in a statement Monday that the organization believes the assignment was a “misguided” attempt to meet Common Core standards and not “part of a larger, insidious, agenda.”
“They assured us that they are ‘taking every step to assure that [the district] will revise its prompt and the words/implications of the Holocaust not existing be stricken,'” the group said.
Image via Shutterstock / Christin Gasner
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.