New York – Albany High School has issued an apology over an English assignment that asked teens to write an essay making the argument that “Jews are evil.”
“You must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!” the assignment read.
The teacher isn’t an anti-Semite so far as we know. The assignment was merely a thought experiment, for which the students were meant to practice their skills of persuasion by arguing a ridiculous position successfully.
Still, the assignment upset students and families, causing the principal to issue an apology. It was handed out to three classes, and the superintendent admitted that it should have been worded differently.
“I would apologize to our families,” Albany Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard said. “I don’t believe there was malice or intent to cause any insensitivities to our families of Jewish faith.”
One-third of the students refused to complete the assignment.
The new Common Core curriculum demands more “sophisticated” writing out of students, reports the Albany Times Union. Generally, this includes some overlap between the subjects of English, history and social studies.
The principal said that she understood the academic point of the assignment, but ceded that it was worded in a very offensive manner. She didn’t say who the teacher was, and wouldn’t say whether or not the educator was disciplined for the assignment.
Several cringe-worthy assignments have been making headlines over the past several months.
In February, a fourth-grade teacher’s math assignment included a question about how many whippings a slave received daily.
That was in Manhattan. In Georgia, a similar math question was posed to elementary school students by another teacher. The subject was division, and the question asked how many beatings former slave an abolitionist Frederick Douglass received.
What do you think of the Albany teacher’s “Jews are evil” assignment? Is it okay to court controversy in the interest of education, or should teachers find less offensive ways to teach their students?
[Image via: Dudva, Wikimedia Commons]