Rialto, California is a town of about 100,000, located east of Los Angeles. Until now its main claims to fame have been bad drinking water and being the site of a chunk of freeway 210 that appeared in the movie “Transformers” and the TV show “Drive.”
Now they are known for something else: they have some of the the stone-ass stupidest personnel in history in their school district.
Rialto’s eighth-graders recently got this assignment:
When tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence. For example, some people claim the Holocaust is not an actual historical event, but instead is a propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain. Based upon your research on this issue, 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. Remember to address counterclaims (rebuttals) to your stated claim. You are also required to use parenthetical (internal) citations and to provide a Works Cited page.
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.”
Just in case one of the teachers or administrators responsible is reading this, let me spell out the problem: this is not a legitimate controversy that can be debated. It is like asking the students to debate, pro and con, the proposition that the President is in the habit of having intercourse with sheep. It is like asking them to debate whether black people really are inherently dishonest and Mexicans lazy. The best “rebuttal” to this is either a punch in the nose or a lawsuit, depending on your social class.
Even in this day of Donald Sterling (non-US readers can satisfy their curiosity here if they care) some still don’t seem to get it:
“One of the most important responsibilities for educators is to develop critical thinking skills in students,” [school board member Joe] Martinez wrote in an email Friday morning. “This will allow a person to come to their own conclusion. Current events are part of the basis for measuring IQ. The Middle East, Israel, Palestine and the Holocaust are on newscasts discussing current events. Teaching how to come to your own conclusion based on the facts, test your position, be able to articulate that position, then defend your belief with a lucid argument is essential to good citizenship. This thought process creates the foundation for a good education. The progression is within district board policy and also supports the district’s student inspired motto: ‘Today’s Scholars, Tomorrow’s Leaders.’”
And district spokeswoman Sayeda Jafri said this:
“There is no doubt the Holocaust was one of the most horrific, traumatic time-pieces in our history,” she wrote in an emailed response Friday afternoon. “We want our students to engage in developing critical thinking skills and have an in-depth perspective on the importance of the Holocaust. Although I received one email last week in reference to this subject, the district has not received any concerns about this writing prompt from any teachers, administrators or parents. However, due to its sensitive nature, we are always open to go back and examine the prompt.”
But by Monday, the school authorities seemed to understand that it was time to change course:
In a statement released Monday, [Jafri] said an academic team was meeting to revise the assignment.
Interim [since March] Superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam was set to talk with administrators to “assure that any references to the holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future Argumentative Research assignments.”
“The holocaust should be taught in classrooms with sensitivity and profound consideration to the victims who endured the atrocities committed,” Jafri said.
Jafri also said that the superintendent had not known about the assignment until he was contacted by the ADL on Friday. Apparently she did not pass on the email that she had received.
No, I do not believe that there was a Muslim conspiracy to teach Holocaust denial, despite the superintendent’s and spokeswoman’s names (they are of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin). I do think that there is a real problem with the mainstreaming of outrageous lies, and an incredible lack of judgment displayed by the under- or mis-educated people to whom we entrust our children.
This is actually more appalling.