Here are text messages the Jewish student at Santa Monica High School sent to her dad during the class wherein students were told to argue for the point of view of the Nazis, who wanted to exterminate Jews:
“Some kids are shouting their speeches in German like Hitler.”
Here are quotes from student’s pro-Nazi campaign speeches in class:
“Our job is to get rid of those filthy disgusting Jews.”
“Help keep the Jewish rats in their camps.”
“We help the removal of the Jewish rats.”
“Jews are the lowest part of society.”
“Everyone is welcome except those filthy Jews.”
“The rats, the Jews, are the lowest form of human being.”
Her parent sent this message to the teacher prior to the presentation. The teacher responded below. Then, the class did the presentation with this Jewish student sitting out. She documented the statements made in class.
Her parent writes to the teacher:
I recently spoke with XXX about one of her current assignments in your class. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t present in class and may have completely misunderstood the assignment. However, I read the take home instructions and spoke with her about it. My understanding is that the students are to take the position of a particular Nazi group and then attempt to convince classmates that the views of that group are good or correct.
I can’t see value of this assignment. I full heartedly believe that understanding why German society would willing follow the horrendous and inaccurate viewpoints of Hitler and his compatriots is important. I understand why it is important to learn about German society at that time. However, I can see very little value in trying to convince fellow students that truly horrendous viewpoints which resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent men, women and children are valid or good, I think it is important to know how the society was convinced however I think that asking students to take a viewpoint that validates and promotes devaluation, discrimination and ultimate death is not good for any student.
I would imagine that the only successful way to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the period is to refuse to participate in the project’s requirement that students advocate a Nazi position. By doing so students are showing a refusal to conform to societal pressure to engage in destructive behavior. Consequently, after discussing the assignment with XXX and our family I have instructed her to not participate in the advocacy portion of the assignment. I told her to research the Nazi group and be prepared to describe why those views espoused by that group are destructive and that the fulfillment of those beliefs ultimately and unfortunately resulted in the Holocaust.
I should also note that a similar assignment was given to students recently in New York. It created quite a backlash. I have attached a link:
I can’t imagine this assignment going over well if the period of history and race were changed. What would the reaction be if students were asked to convince fellow students that the forced enslavement of blacks was a good thing? Could we really justify such an assignment by saying that it would help students understand why slavery was wrong? No.
I’m sure that this assignment was conceived with the best of intentions but it really fails to achieve that purpose.
The teacher (Mrs. Shannon Halley Cox) responded:
I understand your point of view and respect your decisions. The point of the assignment is to answer the question “how could German citizens sit back and let the holocaust happen?” The point is many people were mislead by German propaganda and the necessity to be apart of the group. And the assignment is not to get the class to join one of these groups there will be no voting or anything like this. The point is to show that the groups used lies, blackmail and deceit. The extra credit is based off presentation NOT to see how many students you can recruit. Also after each presentation we look at statistics and backgrounds of these groups and finally their participation in the Holocaust. I make it very clear that these groups were evil and resulted in many inhumane killings. I also use this to show the students that even if Hitler were killed these groups followed the same ideology. Because I always get that question. So again I thank you for your concern and as long as XXX researches her group that is fine, she will not be given a lower grade.
If you have any more concerns please feel free to email or we can always set up a meeting.
According to the Jewish student, after the campaign speeches, the teacher got to the front of the class and said things along the lines of, “Did I tell you to make a campaign about how terrible Jews are?” The class replied, “No.”
She clearly was addressing the complaining email.
The teacher’s way of explaining the project was odd because everyone except for two groups did mention Jews and rat in the same sentence.
Albany, New York (CNN) — An upstate school system apologized Friday after students got a writing assignment in which they were instructed to prove their loyalty to Nazi Germany by arguing Jews are “evil” and the source of that government’s problems.
Students in three Albany High School English classes received the assignment, which was due Wednesday.
The assignment from the unidentified teacher was designed to flex students’ “persuasive writing” skills.
But Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, superintendent of the City School District of Albany, called the assignment “completely unacceptable.”
“It displayed a level of insensitivity that we absolutely will not tolerate in our school community,” Wyngaard said, “I am deeply apologetic to all of our students, all of our families and the entire community.”