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California school changes mind about assignment asking students to debate whether the Holocaust occurred


We’ve got a surprising number of Holocaust-related controversies to discuss today (two things, specifically, which is still two more things than a rational human being might expect), so let’s get right to it.

First, we have a California school giving out a writing assignment that asked eighth-graders to write about whether the Holocaust actually happened.

Awesome, we’re off to a great start already. Take it away, Los Angeles Times:

Students were asked to research and write an argumentative essay about whether the Holocaust actually occurred or if it was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth.”
They were required to analyze information from multiple, credible sources.

This prompted an outcry (duh) and lots of criticism because … well, do we need to actually explain why this sparked criticism? No, of course not, we’re all grown-ups here and we can all see the problem, so let’s just move on to the critiques. (UPDATE: You can head here to see the actual assignment.)

“The Simon Wiesenthal Center is appalled by this grotesque ‘assignment’,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement. An e-mail from the Anti-Defamation League’s associate regional director to the school district said, “It is ADL’s general position that an exercise asking students to question whether the Holocaust happened has no academic value; it only gives legitimacy to the hateful and anti-Semitic promoters of Holocaust Denial.”

The office of the Rialto Unified School District superintendent had issued a statement Monday to “clarify” the writing assignment.

“The intent of the writing prompt was to exercise the use of critical thinking skills,” the statement read. “There was no offensive intent in the crafting of this assignment. We regret that the prompt was misinterpreted.”

(They are really, really sorry that you “misinterpreted” the assignment asking students to consider whether the Holocaust actually occurred. Perhaps you, the people who “misinterpreted” the assignment, need better critical thinking skills.)

But a spokeswoman for the school also released a statement saying that the assignment would be revised, adding that any references to the Holocaust “not occurring” would be stricken from any assignments.

The ADL said it seems like the assignment was simply misguided, rather than “part of a larger, insidious agenda,” and they thanked the Rialto district for its quick response.

We should pause here to note that Holocaust Remembrance Day happened just last week.

Next, we travel to Tennessee, where a state senator named Stacey Campfield compared signing people up for Obamacare to putting Jewish people on trains to death camps in Nazi Germany. (Sure, why not.)

This point is so obviously ironclad you’d think there would be no sense in critiquing it, but that didn’t stop people like Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney from calling the comments “ignorant and repugnant” and telling Campfield to apologize.

In response, Campfield posted a classic “Sorry not sorry” on his blog. “I regret that some people miss the point of my post,” he wrote, adding that his point was just to warn people rather than offend people.

So in conclusion, he’s super sorry that “some people” simply didn’t get what he meant when he wrote something comparing Obamacare sign-ups to Nazis putting Jews on trains to death camps. (As the Rialto school district can attest, sometimes things just get “misinterpreted,” y’know?)

Campfield followed that with a blog post on Tuesday morning headlined “Thought of the day.” This is the entire post:

I like ice cream, mom, apple pie and puppies. This message has been approved by my campaign staff.

That concludes “This week in Holocaust-related news across the United States.” (Hopefully.)