In April, a Rialto, California school asked 2,000 of its 8th-grade students to debate, in an essay, whether the Holocaust happened. Students were given materials from About.com and the History Channel, as well as writings from leading Holocaust deniers, and were tasked with concluding whether or not “this was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth.”
Now, the San Bernadino Sun, which broke the news of the exams, has published images of the students’ essays. The disturbing mini-tracts, riddled with spelling errors that would probably in other circumstances seem charming, fly squarely in the face of the school’s assertions that the assignment was designed to engage critical thinking skills, and that of course none of the students came to the conclusion that the Holocaust didn’t happen.
Here are a few of the students’ responses:
“Based on the evidence from the source, it looks like the Holocaust was political propaganda.”
That’s because the “source” you were reading was a Holocaust denier.
“As I read some articles, it seems more like a hoax.”
Again, because none of the material you received was factual or scholarly or really of any educational value at all.
“Holocaust is a propaganda tool so Israel can make money for Jews.”
Nice one, Rialto Unified School District—putting actual hate in formative young minds. So much for critical thinking.
The teachers, ultimately, seem to be just as clueless as the students. “you did well using the evidence to support your claim,” a teacher wrote in response to a student who said, “I believe the event was fake, according to source 2 the event was exhaggerated.”
You can read the rest of the responses, but it’s pretty bleak.
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.