An essay assigned to 10th graders, at Albany High School, is at the center of controversy after students were asked to ‘think like a Nazi’. Students were assigned a persuasive writing essay where the teacher asked them to “pretend I’m a member of the government in Nazi Germany”, the handout obtained by CBS Channel 6 said.
The assignment went on to say “convince me you are loyal to the Nazis by writing an essay to convince me Jews are evil and the source of our problems.” Albany’ Superintendent, Dr. Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, called the assignment “ill-conceived and inappropriate.” “How could you ask a student to justify prejudice leading to genocide,” said Dr. Vanden Wyngaard. “It is an illogical thing for a student to have to do. It doesn’t make any sense.” The teacher, whose name is not being released by the district, will not be teaching while a decision is being made on what consequences there will be, said Dr. Vanden Wyngaard. “It can go anywhere from a letter of council, a letter reprimand, all the way through to termination there is a broad spectrum,” said Dr. Vanden Wyngaard on the possible sanctions against the teacher. “I will not make that decision within the 24 hours because the spectrum is too big.”
The assignment didn’t make sense to the head of the Holocaust Survivors and Friends Education Center, in Albany, officials said Friday. They were disappointed but looked at the incident as an opportunity to educate both students and teachers going forward. “I was totally shocked when I learned this morning that anyone would have such an unbalanced lesson and grade students teaching racist anti semitic views,” said Shelly Shapiro, Director, Holocaust Survivors and Friends Education Center.
Think like a Nazi, the assignment required students. Argue why Jews are evil.
Students in some Albany High School English classes were asked this week as part of a persuasive writing assignment to make an abhorrent argument: “You must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!”
Students were asked to watch and read Nazi propaganda, then pretend their teacher was a Nazi government official who needed to be convinced of their loyalty. In five paragraphs, they were required to prove that Jews were the source of Germany’s problems.
The exercise was intended to challenge students to formulate a persuasive argument and was given to three classes, Albany Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard said. She said the assignment should have been worded differently.
“I would apologize to our families,” she said. “I don’t believe there was malice or intent to cause any insensitivities to our families of Jewish faith.”
One-third of the students refused to complete the assignment, she said.
Vanden Wyngaard said the exercise reflects the type of writing expected of students under the new Common Core curriculum, the tough new academic standards that require more sophisticated writing. Such assignments attempt to connect English with history and social studies.