Last week, ADL heard about an assignment for eighth graders in the Rialto Unified School District in which students were asked to use critical thinking skills to determine whether or not the Holocaust occurred. We immediately reached out to the school district expressing our strong concerns. We also responded to press inquiries. An email from Associate Regional Director Matthew Friedman to the school district said, in part: “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.”
Friedman, who specializes in Holocaust Education for the ADL region, explains that it is very dangerous to ask junior high school students to question the reality of the Holocaust on their own, especially given the large volume of misinformation on denial websites. “If these questions do come up, it’s better to show the huge preponderance of evidence that’s out there — testimony, documentation, death camp sites, archaeology, etc. –and to also critically examine the motivations of people who question the reality of the Holocaust. This is more of an issue of teaching good information literacy.”
Within a few days, the Rialto Unified School District responded to say they are revising the assignment “with sensitivity and deep consideration to those who fell victim to the Holocaust.” They assured us that they are “taking every step to assure that [the district] will revise its prompt and the words/implications of the Holocaust not existing be stricken.”
ADL does not have any evidence that the assignment was given as part of a larger, insidious, agenda. Rather, the district seems to have given the assignment with an intent, although misguided, to meet Common Core standards relating to critical learning skills.
ADL has thanked the district for its quick response to this matter and offered further assistance including teacher training in ADL’s Holocaust Education curriculum, Echoes and Reflections – Leaders in Holocaust Education, in partnership with the USC Shoah Foundation and Yad Vashem.
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