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The think-like-a-Nazi school assignment (update)

Albany Superintendent Wyngaard(By Mike Groll / AP) Albany Schools Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard (Mike Groll / AP)

(Update: Teacher put on leave)

For the really bad school assignment file: A high school English teacher in Albany actually gave this persuasive writing assignment to students: “Argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!”

According to a story in the Albany Times Union, Albany Schools Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard said administrators were considering how to sanction the unidentified 10th-grade Albany High School teacher.

When officials first learned about the assignment, they considered various actions to take against the teacher, the story said, ranging “from a  letter of counsel to dismissal.” (A letter of counsel for someone who thinks thinks this is a legitimate assignment? Really?) In any case, the teacher has been put on leave, the Associated Press reported.

Part of the assignment was to research Nazi propaganda, which seems like a reasonable task. Then, the Times Union said, the students were supposed to convince their teacher, who they were to assume was a Nazi official, that they were loyal to the regime. And, the students were told, they “must argue that Jews are evil.” And, it said they should use “any experiences you have” to construct the five-paragraph essay.

Some students refused to write it, and a parent of a student in the class complained to school officials.

“This assignment for some of our students at Albany High School was completely unacceptable. It displayed a level of insensitivity that we absolutely will not tolerate in our school community,” Wyngaard said at a news conference Friday at the United Jewish Federation. “I’m deeply apologetic to all of our students, all of our families and the entire community.”

Wyngaard was accompanied by representatives of Jewish organizations and school board officials.

Shelly Shapiro, director of the Holocaust Survivors & Friends Education Center, was quoted as saying:

After this unfortunate lesson we know that the Albany School District will rededicate themselves to teaching about how prejudice led to genocide and to help their students build a better community.



Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.



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