After Asking Students to ‘Explain Why Jews Are Evil,’ Teacher Placed on Leave

Persuasive writing class has teacher pretend to be Third Reich officer.

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Nazi rally in Nuremberg, Germany, during the 1930s. Albany High School students had to pretend their teacher was a member of the Third Reich for controversial assignment.

A New York high school has apologized after students were assigned the task of “explaining why Jews are evil” as part of a persuasive writing class and the teacher responsible has been placed on leave, reports the Albany Times Union.

TheTimes Union broke the story last Friday, reporting that sudents at Albany High School were asked to watch and read Nazi propaganda, and then pretend their English teacher was a fascist official whom they must convince of their loyalty.

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Around 75 kids were told to they “must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich” in five paragraphs.

Participants were urged to use information garnered from their history classes as well as “any experiences you have” to present a damning appraisal of the Jewish people. However, around one-third of the 10th graders involved refused to take part in the assignment, prompting a speedy respsonse from school staff.

“I would apologize to our families,” Albany Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard told a meeting called in response to the incident. “I don’t believe there was malice or intent to cause any insensitivities to our families of Jewish faith.”

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The teacher responsible for the controversial class could face further disciplinary action including possible dismissal, reported the Times Union. Vanden Wyngaard did not say when or if the district would allow the teacher back in the classroom, but suggested it may not happen before the end of the year.

Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Nazi-theme-draws-leave-4431448.php#ixzz2QYGF13Kk

The incident has drawn the wrath of faith groups. “The assignment is flawed in its essence,” Rabbi David M. Eligberg of Temple Israel, a Conservative synagogue, told the New York Times. “It asks students to take the product for a propaganda machine and treat it as legitimate fodder for a rational argument. And that’s just wrong.”

Students were advised to incorporate elements of the teachings of Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher who espoused arguing through the persuasive trident of logos (reasoning), pathos (emotional appeal) and ethos (author’s character). However, the Albany lesson appears to have more in common with the sophists, opponents of Aristotle, who believed that they could convince people of any untruth through the use of specious arguments.

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18 comments
sabrinabalseiro
sabrinabalseiro

Jews hate me and my family because we are Eastern Orthodox Christian Germans. I wonder why US Supreme court ruled them as a race,when they are just a religious mindset. However,if you berate or look down upon Christians or ask "Why are Christians Evil?" no article or outrage would be posted.

Dykeward
Dykeward

This does not seem to me too different from that racial charlatan Jane Elliot who likes to separate each group into blue eyes and brown eyes and then have one side persecute the other and then reverse it. It forces the person into an uneasy position of submission to authority (or ideology) and thereby delivers a (banal) lesson in social psychology.

Darthkuriboh1
Darthkuriboh1

yes because heaven forbid someone actually teach TRUTH.

traderjim7
traderjim7

What is most disturbing is a point no commenter has brought up, how did this teacher get this far?  How did this teacher ever become a teacher with such views?  Are you telling us that this was the first time for this teacher?  I don't believe it.  the real problem is the administrators in our schools, not the teachers.  This story also shows that school systems need to give stricter guidelines as to what is taught and how it is taught.

czydiamond
czydiamond

You would be surprised how many people still hold such views. Read Yahoo comments sometime. Kind of scary.

carledgar
carledgar

It's actually 'those of the jewish culture' rather than faith. Lots of Jews don't go to Temple, although they'll observe Yom Kippur - just as lots of those nominally raised as Christians don't go to church regularly but may teach their kids some basic Christian stuff to expose them to the culture - lots of lapsed Christians for example will say to their kids at bedtime 'now i lay me down to sleep - I pray the Lord my soul to keep - yada yada  - I think that's harmless - it gives the kids the impression that someone up there likes them when they're at a pretty defenceless stage of their lives - as they gain more autonomy they can figure it out for themselves


meanwhile though - it's more culture than faith - faith is a declining commodity

dfwenigma
dfwenigma

I was once asked to make a moral compromise when in school. I think in this case they're asking students to take a morally reprehensible position and argue from it, challenging their ability to apply logic and reason to something that is morally unjust. I suspect that at this stage of their lives that might be appealing - being a "rebel". But in reality the argument is based on a false premise that is morally and ethically compromised. I would give kids a wide range of alternatives some of which are morally compromised. In my case I took a morally compromised position and my classmates were appalled. I was sent down to the principle's office, my essay was derided. But I stood my ground. I claimed that if the principal continued his stance I would take front and center stage before the entire school board. I enjoyed the exercise but hated the subject matter. And I didn't agree with the morally compromised position. I think it was an argument that slavery was justifiable. I not only didn't agree. I thought it was awful. I said so. But students knew I took the position I did. The essay was sound - I had a friend of the family, an English professor read it, and she marked it up, I corrected it and submitted it. I received a D+ or something on the assignment. I never lived that down. But the teacher gave us a choice of assignments - and I chose that one. I had only submitted a draft to her. She wasn't pleased. I had used proper Chicago style (Turabian) citations. I knocked all the arguments against slavery out of the water: the inhumanity, the injustice, the unfairness, the cruelty - all of it. I swept it away by logical argument after argument. She said it was too long. She disagreed openly, vehemently with me - in the draft. She said the best I could hope for was a B- and then sent me to the office. I told the vice principal I needed to see the principal and demanded that someone else review the essay - a neutral third party. He offered himself. I said he wasn't neutral. He was furious. He threatened to expel me. I left his office and walked to the administration building. I demanded to see the associate superintendent. She wasn't in - so I saw a colleague. He heard me out and had me wait outside. The next day a third party was found - and she evaluated my essay - a clean copy that I typed up. She gave me an A- - the minus for the length issue. She said the arguments were solid but that the morality and ethics were compromised. The teacher was required to give me an A-. She dogged me for the rest of the class. I deserved an A overall in that class - I received a B-. The grade she said I'd earned on the essay. She got her revenge and my parents told me to move on with life.

SDDave72
SDDave72

I conducted an edgy in-class simulation years ago in my junior college US government course. I insisted all "players" understand it was just a simulation and they did not have to take part. Although the results of the simulation were powerful (said the students) I will not do it again. It was chilling.

BruceBenson
BruceBenson

and there is a question about retention of this teacher why?

Their judgement is flawed, their bigotry exposed, and the damage they intended to create is permanently instilled. Thank God 33% refused to do this disgustingly stupid assignment. I only wish it had been 66%... Still too many sheep..

sabrinabalseiro
sabrinabalseiro

@traderjim7  Is ass kissing the jews allowed? that irriates me every 

time they want me to ass kiss jews,love them etc.

MichiSilent-Mortiferum
MichiSilent-Mortiferum

@czydiamond There is nothing wrong with Jews. However there is something wrong with the Zionists. They are demented and have the world hostage. Google the "Samson Option". It's no wonder why everyone is kissing Israel's ass while they are openly committing genocide in Palestine. 

dfwenigma
dfwenigma

@SDDave72 BaFa BaFa is like that. You create red, green and other color "states". The groups are given pre-determined sets of basic circumstances. Then the simulation exercises guides them through the various phases. The purpose is to explore the sources of power and institutional behavior. I think it was developed by sociologists and political scientists to illustrate how political and social systems work. I couldn't participate but I'm told that it quite often gets out of hand. Those who facilitate are warned about the potential consequences, but I think for graduate and post-grad students it can be an outstanding source for a thesis. If you know the positions are morally compromised from the beginning - does it make the entire exercise wrong? It's like asking for a parent to choose who would live or die if you could only save one child. I think those things happened on the Titanic and all those who observed the choices people had to make were impacted for their entire lives.

dfwenigma
dfwenigma

@BruceBenson Years ago I took Nazism and the Holocaust at a private university. In the early 1900's the village was integrated. People lived peacefully. There were Jews, there were Christians - there was a fairly thick working class, in fact it was quite an affluent little village. The 1920's brought prosperity. By 1923 things started to change. By 1926 some of the most meek members of the community got involved with a group that taught public speaking, motivation and by 1927 / 1928 more people participated - they were recruiting - for...the Nazi Party. Everyone attended the small talks to support their local members. Quietly, Jews and others who were different stayed away. They stopped attending. Rumors began. Rumors turned into fear, fear turned into small groups of vigilanties. Shops closed, people were thrust into unemployment. The little village experienced hardship and hunger. Neighbor turned on neighbor; friends and families were torn apart. By 1938 things were in dire straights. By 1939 / 1940 the Nazis were in full control. Farmers outside the village were thrust into abject poverty. Then the deportations began. Perhaps if people had objected things would have been different. The little village still bears the stigma today. You see the Nazis burned the little village to the ground and short many of the people who did object. It was too late.

SDDave72
SDDave72

@dfwenigma @SDDave72 Thanks for your comment. In my case the result straddled the fine line between a lesson learned and things we'd just as soon not know (which is a lesson in itself). I did the class simulation 30 years ago but would likely get sued by one of the students today. For what it's worth however, it didn't smack of bigotry.

dfwenigma
dfwenigma

@BruceBenson I should clarify - the village above was illustrated in a small book used in the class.