Critical Thinking in Critical Condition

Great googley moogley:

The Rialto school district planned to revise an eighth-grade assignment that raised red flags by asking students to consider arguments about whether the Holocaust — the systematic killing by the Nazis of some 6 million Jews and millions of others — was not an “actual event” but instead a “propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain.”

In a statement released Monday, a spokeswoman for the Rialto Unified School District said an academic team was meeting to revise the assignment.

Interim 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,” a statement from district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri read.

“The holocaust should be taught in classrooms with sensitivity and profound consideration to the victims who endured the atrocities committed,” Jafri said.

The English/Language Arts assignment, first reported Sunday by the San Bernardino Sun and provided to KTLA by the newspaper, asked students to write an argumentative essay about the Holocaust describing “whether or not you believe this was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth.”

Ed Morrissey has more details. Apparently, the “source materials” included a reference to a crackpot Holocaust denial site. The counter-sources were wikipedia and about.com.

Seriously.

I’ll be as fair as possible to the school and assume that they wanted to teach critical thinking and writing skills by having students address some piece of conspiratorial garbage and find the flaws. But … really even that fails as an excuse. If you want to teach students critical thinking, why on Earth would start with the giant pile of flaming shit that is Holocaust denial? Responding to that is either shooting fish in a barrel or wallowing in some of the foulest pits of conspiracy theory nonsense.

If you want to teach critical thinking skills, take on something that is not settled, like an ongoing scientific or economic debate. Have them read articles for and against the stimulus, for example. Or for and against socialized medicine. Or about climate change. Or about something besides garbage theories that pretend ten million people weren’t murdered by the Nazis.

Comments are closed.

  1. Seattle Outcast

    A better assignment would be a comparison between the Turks genocide of the Armenians and the Nazi genocide of jews, gypsies, and other undesired and targeted groups.

    That way they can understand that Germany studied how Muslims went unpunished after killing millions of innocents in the name of creating an ethnically pure country.

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  2. Xetrov

    ’ll be as fair as possible to the school and assume that they wanted to teach critical thinking and writing skills by having students address some piece of conspiratorial garbage and find the flaws.

    Yeah, I’m not gonna give them the benefit of the doubt in this case.

    Interim Superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam

    You can’t make this shit up.

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  3. AlexInCT

    Xetov pointed out the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw this shit. Unfortunately, this shit is not limited to the Islamists, as some recent examples brought up by people that took a closer look at the Core curriculum stuff showed. My favored was the one where a supposed math problem dealt with Abe Lincon’s religion of progressivism.

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  4. Section8

    Death to the Islamists!

    Why the fuck is this clown still allowed to post here? Seriously there is nothing of value he brings. We have a post on some ridiculous critical thinking assignment, and it’s twisted into some dumb ass Islamic backlash. Jim, Rich, Hal, someone please clean out the garbage so we can have a decent blog again that’s not littered with trash.

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  5. Section8

    For the thumbs down just interested in your rationale.

    Lets take a look at this.

    Here you have a guy that floods posts with accusations of binary, extreme, and ideologue, and over and over again.

    Here we have a post on a ridiculous curriculum, who the administrator happens to have the name Mohammad Z. The responses thus far have been to point that out. Is that a problem? Should it be ignored? Would you ignore if it happened to be a Republican? There was no suggestion he be shot, killed, or at this point even reprimanded. Alex, who gets accused of being the most “extreme” and “binary” even pointed out the conspiracy theories of the Holocaust aren’t limited to Islamists. Of course the biggest binary of all wants to throw the conversation off by taking it to the extreme making it appear everyone wants this guy killed to invalidate the entire discussion. Maybe he’s in agreement with the Jews did it for money since he has not interested in commenting on that? Who the fuck knows and who cares. Just tired of the same narrative from this guy with blatant hypocrisy over and over again. Provides no value.

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  6. Hal_10000 *

    I avoided commenting on Mohammed Islam (?) because I’m not sure if he had anything to do with this assignment. It’s not clear who created this and he’s only an interim supervisor.

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  7. Section8

    And that is a good point. He might have not even known about it. That’s valid discussion, that doesn’t equate to Death to Islamists when none even hinted at such a thing. Is that your reasoning for the thumbs down though or did someone else do it? I mean I don’t care about the vote in particular. The buttons are there to be used, just curious. I mean if you are all fine with the non stop nonsense from him that’s cool. I think a lot of people have left because they’ve gotten tired of it.

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  8. Section8

    If you want me off of here, then put in a request. Do I hijack threads in your opinion, or turn every one into you’re all extreme but I’m not? Tell me what benefit is added by that behavior?

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  9. hist_ed

    The odds of a superintendent knowing anything about individual assignments in individual schools are just about zero. My principal and vice principal don’t know what every teacher is teaching day to day, never mind people above them in the food chain. If the superintendent knew about this beforehand, then that is evidence that something bad was up.

    Argument essays (did you know that Common Core dumps the word “thesis”? I am not supposed to use it any more-the essay is an “argument essay” and the thesis statement is now a “claim.”) should be an important part of 8th graders’ curriculum. Every school in the country should be assigning more of them. However, it defeats some of the point of doing so if one side is not arguable. Teaching and practicing these skills on a question like the one above (which really should be the equivalent of debating: “Did the Allies win World War Two?” or “Were Jim Crow laws racist?”) takes a big chunk of the learning out of it and makes it essentially a report instead of a thesis paper.

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