District spokeswoman Syeda Jafri explains that the assignment was developed by district teachers in connection with the eighth grade’s reading of the “Diary of Anne Frank” in April. It is aligned with Common Core Standards, which promote, among other things, critical thinking skills.
Check it out:
“All right, class. Today, we are going to test your ability to think critically. I want you write a paper arguing, pro or con, that the story of the transatlantic slave trade was a political hoax manufactured to sway public emotion.”
The putative assignment above would be grounds for the immediate dismissal of a teacher anywhere in the country. But imagine the same task in which the phrase transatlantic slave trade was replaced by Holocaust. Would any school district countenance its dissemination to middle school students?
The San Bernardino Sun confirms that it not only would be but was by the Rialto Unified School District, of Rialto, Calif. The office of the district’s interim superintendent — whose name is Mohammad Z. Islam — maintains that the assignment is intended “merely to teach students to evaluate the quality of evidence made by advocates or opponents of an issue.”