After it elicited strong condemnation from Jewish groups, a California school district pulled a writing assignment that asked eighth-graders to debate whether the Holocaust happened.
The initial assignment given to eighth-graders in the Rialto Unified School District near Los Angeles was to do research and write an essay explaining whether they believed the Holocaust was a real historical event or a political
scheme to influence public emotion and gain.
“It was pulled,” a staff-member at the school told Hamodia. He asked not to be named as he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
“As soon as the Superintendent [Mohammad Z. Islam] heard of it, he instructed that it be changed,” he added.
However, in a written statement released to the public, the school appeared to defend the assignment.
“The intent of the writing prompt was to exercise the use of critical thinking skills. There was no offensive intent in the crafting of this assignment,” the statement read. “We regret that the prompt was misinterpreted.”
Dr. Irving Lebovics, a noted askan who resides in Los Angeles, rejected the claim.
“This misguided assignment was not about critical thinking. It was an invitation to Holocaust deniers to poison young minds with their bigotry,” he told Hamodia.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center said that his organization was “appalled by this grotesque ‘assignment.’”
“This assignment mistakenly provides moral equivalency between history and bigotry,” Rabbi Cooper declared.
The Anti-Defamation League also emailed the School District to express their concern about the assignment.
District spokeswoman Syeda Jafri told the Associated Press on Monday that the Superintendent will talk to the district’s education services department to ensure all references to the Holocaust “not occurring” are stricken on any current or future argumentative research assignment.
“The Holocaust should be taught in classrooms with sensitivity and profound consideration to the victims who endured the atrocities committed,” Jafri said. “We believe in the words of George Santayana, those who cannot learn from history are bound to repeat it.” (With reporting by AP)