The gates of Auschwitz. (Lucky Team Studio/Shutterstock) (Lucky Team Studio/Shutterstock)
Auschwitz Holocaust

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A New York school administration defends student assignment to argue in favor of exterminating Jews.

A teacher from Oswego County, New York, in February gave an assignment asking students to argue in favor of exterminating Jews, generating uproar.

The teacher, Michael DeNobile, gave the assignment as part of the Oswego County CiTi/BOCES New Vision program, according to a report in the American Thinker.

According to local reporter Julie McMahon, the students were asked to “put themselves in a Nazi leaders’ shoes and argue for or against the ‘Final Solution’ to exterminate Jewish people.”

MaryEllen Elia, the New York education commissioner, defended the teacher’s actions on Thursday.

It seems that only two students, both non Jewish seniors, were disturbed by the assignment, Jordan April and Archer Shurtlif. April and Shurtliff brought their concerns to DeNobile, higher administrators, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Their goal was “to make sure no other student would be asked to argue in favor of killing Jews again.”

They also unsuccessfully asked the New Vision program to retract the assignment. Following their complaints the entire class had the opportunity to choose their own project, but only three students took advantage of that, including April and Shurtliff.

Elia defended her support of the assignment, citing critical thinking as the supposed learning tool. “I think it’s certainly a question where you want students to think on both sides and analyze … which position a person is taking,” she stated.

Shurtliff, in a separate interview, stated “it’s settled opinion…You can’t say that Jews deserve to die. It should be a settled thing.”

McMahon reported the assignment notes the point is “not for you to be sympathetic to the Nazi point of view. … Ultimately, this is an exercise on expanding your point of view by going outside your comfort zone and training your brain to logistically [sic] find the evidence necessary to prove a point, even if it is existentially and philosophically against what you believe.”

‘Teaching Some Seriously Misguided Adults’

ADL education director Beth Martinez said the incident is “deeply troubling,” adding students should never be given an assignment “that even hints at their [sic] being ‘two sides’ to the ‘Final Solution’ / Holocaust.”

Martinez said she was notified by Roseann Bayne, the assistant superintendent for the CiTi program, that the assignment was still offered along with an alternative.

Martinez cited Common Core as a catalyst for pushing students to argue from a perspective from which they disagree. “This sounds benign at first glance – until you see an example like this, where a student is asked to justify mass murder as part of a learning experience. One can only hope such a thing would be outside most people’s “comfort zone” and remain there,” wrote Susan Harris for the AT.

“The fight is definitely not over for two 17-year-old girls who had the guts to take on a monumental task: teaching some seriously misguided adults that critical thinking does not mean abandoning all human decency at the schoolhouse door,” she concluded.

By: United with Israel Staff

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