The Albany school district is embroiled in controversy after a teacher assigned this assignment to students that requires them to write an essay that proves the writer is loyal to the German Nazi’s and that “Jews are evil and the source of our problems.”
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.
She said she understood the academic intent of the assignment — to make an argument based only on limited information at hand. Still, she acknowledged that it was worded in a very offensive manner. She did not identify the English teacher or discuss whether the educator faced any discipline.
Students were asked to make a rhetorical argument, drawing on previous lessons in crafting an opinion.
To help with their writing, they were required to incorporate the elements of an argument identified by Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher. Students had to look up the definitions of “Logos” (persuasion by reasoning), “Pathos” (persuasion by emotional appeal) and “Ethos” (persuasion by the author’s character) and choose one of those argument styles before writing.
Other ill-considered teacher assignments have made national news this year.
In February, a Manhattan teacher caused an uproar after fourth-graders were given a math problem based on how many daily whippings a slave received.
In January, Georgia educators attempted to teach division to elementary school students by asking how many beatings per day former slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass received.