In today’s Fox News world, where any question is legitimate, especially when it challenges “Liberal reality,” it makes sense that this sort of thing would happen. I suppose the wonder is why it doesn’t happen more frequently. We live in a world in which indoctrination is increasingly valued over education, and where “right thinking” is held to be more important than critical thinking. Call it what you will, but this assignment, no matter how well-intended, speaks to indoctrination far more than education.
The assignment is simple as it is disgusting, the students are to debate if the mass murder of minorities, the disabled, or those with mental issues actually happened within Germany during World War II. To add insult to injury they were further instructed to take into account conspiracy theories that the Holocaust was propaganda designed to steal millions of dollars.
If you believe the Holocaust was a Liberal plot played out on a sound stage in Burbank, you probably have no issue with the assignment. If you’re willing to overlook the preponderance of historical evidence (and the dwindling number of flesh and blood Holocaust survivors), that’s your right in a society that guarantees you the right to believe as you see fit. That right ends when it comes to teaching something provably false to 8th-graders. Our tax dollars should not be used to indoctrinate children with ideas that are as dishonest as they are harmful.
In a different context, this assignment may have been valuable. If you’re trying to teach students to think critically, Holocaust denial is be a valuable topic to tackle. When you provide leeway allowing students to argue that the Holocaust was a myth, you’re not teaching history, you’re teaching mythology. There’s no educational value to be found in asking students to examine the veracity of something supported by mountains of historical evidence. The Holocaust happened. The Holocaust is a historical reality. Whether or not you happen to believe that is up to you, but denying the demonstrably true doesn’t negate the truth. I may refuse to believe the Miami Heat have won the last two NBA championships, but that by no means invalidates the Heat’s titles. It just means I’m an idiot with a tenuous grip on reality and an even looser grip on the truth.
Our children should (nay, must) be taught about the Holocaust. They should also be taught about Holocaust denial. They need to understand that there are those with a political/ideological agenda that allows them to believe whatever supports their prejudice. There’s substantial academic and social value in teaching the truth and asking students to examine that truth…but to ask them to argue why they may believe the Holocaust to be a fraud? That’s not education. That’s indoctrination.