Is This Ignorance, or an Exercise in Prejudice?
The following story, which came out of the New York Times is shocking, but it shouldn’t be. With numerous hate groups growing in America, most of us are aware that racism, bigotry and prejudice are on the rise. By the end of the 20th century, gains made in the 1960’s and 1970’s to reduce hate based on race, religion, and sexual orientation, were beginning to see a 180 degree reversal.
A 10th grade English teacher came up with a unique idea to challenger his or her students in Albany, New York. The assignment, to imagine that their teacher was a Nazi and to construct an argument that Jews were “the source of our problems” using historical propaganda and, of course, a traditional high school essay structure.
“Your essay must be five paragraphs long, with an introduction, three body paragraphs containing your strongest arguments, and a conclusion,” the assignment read. “You do not have a choice in your position: you must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!”
Yes, this is just plain insensitive. It is also highly volatile, and it is probably the idea of an ignorant educator, or someone who had joined the “crazies” and denies that the holocaust ever happened.
“Obviously, we have a severe lack of judgment and a horrible level of insensitivity,” said Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, superintendent of Albany’s schools. “That’s not the assignment that any school district, and certainly not mine, is going to tolerate.”
The teacher who gave the assignment was not in class Friday, said Wyngaard, and is also facing disciplinary action which may mean firing.
Outside the classroom, reaction was mixed. Rabbi David M. Eligberg of Temple Israel, a Conservative synagogue, said he found the lesson incendiary, inappropriate and academically unsound.
“The assignment is flawed in its essence,” Rabbi Eligberg said. “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.”
While the numbers of overtly anti-Semitic groups in the United States are fairly numerous, the total number of their members is relatively small. But there is a growing movement in Europe, and the numbers are increasing.
A growth of anti-Semitism has subtly crept into the European sociology. Victories by far right anti-Semitic parties in Europe, including the Golden dawn party in Greece and the Jobbik party in Hungary, are a worrying trend.
One study gave the assumption that the change in attitude was the result of the world’s economic downturn. But there are no substantial facts to prove the premise.
Tel-Aviv University performed a study which showed that the number of attacks on Israelis and Jews declined in 2011, there was a measurable increase in severity.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, speaking Friday to mark the day, slammed Hamas and Iranian president Mahmoud Amhadinejad for teaching anti-Semitism and denying the Holocaust.
“The hands of time threaten to cloud the world’s memory. It is our responsibility to rescue the history and lessons of the Holocaust – just as the men and women that we honor today rescued its victims,” he said. “It is on us to teach the values of tolerance – to educate our children so that they live together as one human family.”
Columnist-The Guardian Express