Last week, a high school teacher in Albany, NY was disciplined over a controversial assignment. She asked her class to write a persuasive essay arguing that the Jews are evil.
When I first heard about the story my thought was that this could go in one of either two ways. It could be that the teacher is anti-semitic and incredibly stupid to not realize that such an assignment would get her fired or the teacher is trying to teach students how to argue for a ridiculous position they couldn’t possibly believe.
As it turns out, this assignment was incredibly smart. It was much smarted than I could have predicted. It was linked to a history class dealing with Nazi propaganda. The teacher was not just trying to get her students to write persuasive arguments for positions they clearly disagree with, but also teaching about how many Germans might have felt in Nazi Germany who were forced to pretend to hate Jews because their lives depending on it. If they couldn’t convince Nazi soldiers about how evil the Jews were, they and their families would be killed as Jewish sympathizers.
I don’t know this teacher, but I would wager that she is probably one of the best teachers in the state and possibly the nation. She is getting her students to think and to put themselves into history. She should be rewarded, not punished.
This lesson reminds me of a history lesson my high school history teach gave me when I was in school. We had just finished a unit and the teacher was giving back our tests with our test scores before we started the next unit. While giving the tests back, he told the class that he discovered that one of the students cheated and will be getting an “F.” He pointed to the best student in the class. Someone who everyone knew was smart and knew the material. In fact, several of the other students studied with her for the test. She burst out crying and professed her innocence. But our teacher was not moved. He told her that she was a cheater and that he was telling all of her other teachers that she was a cheater. The more she cried, the more he started yelling at her. He pulled out a folder and said that he had all the proof he needed. One of our classmates stood up and told the teacher that he had studied with her and that he didn’t think she cheated. Our teacher was again not moved. Instead, he said that he must be a cheater too and that he was now getting an “F.” Only another cheater would try to defend a cheater, he insisted. Then I asked if there were any other cheaters in the class who wanted to come forward.
I admit that I did not step up even though I didn’t think that either of the two students were cheaters. As you might have guessed, we just started our unit on the Red Scare and McCarthyism. It was a lesson I will never forget and of course the first “cheater” was in on it the whole time. I regret that I was not the one who stood up to defend her, but that was a powerful lesson. Today, this teacher would have been fired for such a lesson for causing emotional distress or something.
It bothers me that this teacher in Albany will probably be fired for making a great educational assignment that actually challenges her students. It would be different of course if she actually felt that Jews were evil and was trying to use this assignment to convince her students of her opinion. But that was not the case. Everyone realizes what the point of her assignment was, but it was just too politically incorrect.
Her is another opinion of the teacher in question from someone in the class: http://freetexthost.com/r5z00zf3wj
- School apologizes for ‘Nazi’ writing assignment (timesunion.com)
- Teacher who told pupils to write Jew-hating Nazi letter placed on leave (metro.co.uk)
- An Apostate To Judaism (skepticink.com)
- Biblical Exodus from Egypt never happened (examiner.com)
- History Channel: Where televangelism comes alive (examiner.com)