A shocking Holocaust denial-based writing assignment that many say lends credence to the claim the Holocaust was a hoax has caused immense backlash, and prompted the California school district in which the assignment was given to release a statement addressing the furor.
Rialto Unified School District in California is at the center of a large controversy after the text of a writing prompt was made public. In the offensive question, students were not only inspired to question the veracity of Holocaust history, but were also directed to “write an argumentative essay, based upon cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe this was an actual event in history or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth… “
Holocaust denial is considered a taboo topic in America, where many Jews fled after concentration camps in Europe were liberated during World War II. Generally, history including the horrors of the Holocaust is not considered to be a debatable subject in American classrooms — which makes the school’s updated response to the incident all the more puzzling.
Most educated Americans are aware of the reasons behind the fringe nature of Holocaust denial, making Rialto school district’s explanation that the “intent of the writing prompt was to exercise the use of critical thinking skills” all the more puzzling and bizarre.
The statement says the Holocaust denial writing prompt had “no offensive intent,” and the district “regret[s] that the prompt was misinterpreted.” (However, the portion suggesting the motivation of a “political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth” seems to be difficult to misinterpret.)
The Rialto district continues:
“We concur with the United States Holocaust Museum website, which states, ‘Teaching Holocaust history demands a high level of sensitivity and keen awareness of the complexity of the subject matter.’ We appreciate the suggestions of the Anti-Defamation League, as we have shared goals when it comes to our students and our community.”
District spokesperson Syeda Jafri commented on the ensuing controversy, saying:
“Absolutely the Holocaust occurred… It was brought to our attention, and we’re not happy. And we are going to correct it.”
Anti-Defamation League associate regional director Matthew Friedman spoke about the strange assignment in Rialto this week, stating that such an exercise is “dangerous,” and “only gives legitimacy to the hateful and anti-Semitic promoters of Holocaust Denial.”
“ADL does not have any evidence that the assignment was given as part of a larger, insidious, agenda. Rather, the district seems to have given the assignment with an intent, although misguided, to meet Common Core standards relating to critical learning skills.”
After the Holocaust denial writing prompt controversy was addressed in a Monday statement by Rialto Unified School District interim Superintendent Mohammed Islam, a meeting was scheduled this evening in the district to discuss next steps.
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