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April 13th, 2013
02:38 PM ET

My Take: Nothing wrong with Nazi assignment

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) – School officials in Albany, New York, are racing to control the damage after a teacher at Albany High School gave students a persuasive writing assignment that challenged them to defend the proposition that “Jews are evil.”

After studying Nazi propaganda and rhetoric, sophomores in three English classes were instructed to imagine that their teacher was “a member of the government in Nazi Germany” and to prove that that they were “loyal to the Nazis.”

But this unidentified teacher is now caught up in a propaganda swirl of his or her own.

Albany Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, at a Friday press conference at which she was flanked by members of the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Federation of New York, apologized and promised disciplinary action.

One student, Emily Karandy, told The Times Union of Albany that she kept putting off the assignment “because I didn’t want to think about it” and she felt “horrible” when she turned it in.

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New York City Councilman David Greenfield has called for the resignation of the teacher, who has been placed on leave.

"The teacher responsible for coming up with and assigning students with this task must be held accountable for attempting to indoctrinate children with anti-Semitic beliefs," Greenfield said in a statement. "Quite obviously, this teacher lacks the judgment and common sense necessary to have a position of such great responsibility and is clearly not fit to return to the classroom."

"You asked a child to support the notion that the Holocaust was justified, that's my struggle," said Vanden Wyngaard. "It's an illogical leap for a student to make."

I think it’s Greenfield who is lacking in common sense here. And it's the superintendent who is being illogical.

I suppose it is possible that the teacher is a closet Nazi attempting to reconstruct the Third Reich in Albany. But isn’t it more likely that he or she is trying to teach students about the dangers of propaganda and the horrors of the Holocaust?

Consider the student who felt “horrible” about doing this assignment. Is that really a bad thing? How are high school students today supposed to feel about Nazism and the Holocaust?

Apparently, what they are supposed to feel (and think) is nothing, because the lesson high school teachers are going to take away from this fiasco is to avoid this topic at all costs, lest they risk losing their jobs.

When I was an assistant professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, I used to teach Nazi theology. My students read sermons by Nazi theologians arguing that Jews were evil and were responsible for killing Jesus. They also read a book called “Theologians Under Hitler” by Robert P. Erickson, who tried to explain how and why Christian thinkers could come to believe that exterminating Jews was somehow Christ-like.

I am not a Nazi. I was not teaching Nazi theology as the truth. I was teaching it as propaganda, just like this Albany High School teacher was doing. My purpose was not to make my students sympathetic to Nazism. My purpose was to unsettle them. And to teach them something along the way.

I had two goals when teaching this material.

First, I wanted my students to realize that smart Christians with doctoral degrees supported the Holocaust. Second, I wanted them to grapple with the implications of this fact on their own religious commitments. Do Christians today have any responsibility to know this history and to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again? If so, how can they exercise that responsibility without coming to understand the contours of Nazi thought?

But instead of grappling with these questions, my students almost universally tried to side-step them. The Nazis were not Christians, they told me confidently, because Christians would never kill Jews just for being Jews. Case closed. Time to move on to more comfortable topics.

What I witnessed in Atlanta, and what we are seeing today in Albany, is a failure of imagination. My students were so locked into their current circumstances that they couldn’t imagine things being different in a different place and time.

For them, to believe that Christians could condone the Holocaust was (to quote from the Albany superintendent) an “illogical leap.” But Christians did condone the Holocaust. How can students learn that without digging into the primary materials? And how better to wrestle with those primary materials than by constructing a persuasive essay built upon them?

If I were teaching at Albany High School I might have worded this assignment a little differently. But it's a terrific assignment, and one that should be used at more high schools across the country. To far too many American youth, the Holocaust is an echo of an echo. Assignments like this bring it alive in all its horrors.

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But students aren't the only victims of the failure of imagination we are now witnessing among Albany school officials and Jewish leaders. The teacher is a victim, too. And so are public school teachers across the country who are being told via this fiasco not to be creative as teachers, not to challenge their students to think in new ways.

If this teacher is fired, I will invite him or her to Boston University, where I now teach, to explain what he or she was trying to accomplish in challenging students with this assignment. And I will give the same assignment to my college students. I think it will do them some good.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Culture wars • Education • Holocaust • Judaism • New York • Prejudice • United States

soundoff (1,829 Responses)
  1. Randy Garner

    You and the teacher are both complete i d i o t s.

    April 16, 2013 at 8:36 am |

    • If you are not talking to yourself, then perhaps you should explain WHY you feel that way.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • FreddyCanuck

      This is a typical response to such a situation. Simply say that it is bad to discuss such things without giving a valid reason why. Randy, you are in fact the i d i o t.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • ThisnThat

      Freddy. The teacher, in fact, IS an idiot. And she's being punished for idiotic treatement of her students. Didn't you read the article at all?

      April 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Greg

      Sounds like you're the one that didn't read the article, This. That the assignment might be deemed inappropriate for a high school class is one thing, but your other posts show that you think the teacher had some evil underlying motive. Stop being a jerk, a$$hat.

      April 16, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  2. yahhoo

    Austin
    New International Version (©2011)
    Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place."

    Jesus came to die as prophecied. Why would Hitler need to get revenge for that? can anyone explain that? Anyone who can explain that is a potential Nazi because you biblical ignorance is a major depravity.

    Hosea
    my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. "Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.

    Hitler was not a a christian. Hitler was a raging psycho path. It does not matter if religiosity served Hitlers ego. We are talkiing about a a mass murder. For you to pass off a mass mass murderer's fault off on religion is just showing compassion fo poor Adolf, and spitting of you creator God because you are a slave of rejection.

    April 16, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Paul

      He thought himself a Christian. Which of the myriads of Christians think the same, but not about the ones across town?

      April 16, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • FreddyCanuck

      Maybe, if Christ's supporters had fought to protect him, it would have escalated into a full out race war. Wouldn't that have been something? And if the Jews had been wiped out at the time, who would Adolph had to pick on? Left-handed people, perhaps. Or maybe he would have simply focused on the Slavic people who lost way, way more lives to the Nazi's then Jews did.

      April 16, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  3. Larry

    People who are against this must never have had to do formal debate. You sometimes have to prepare both sides, or you're team is given a side in a coin toss. Either way, you have to passionately defend your position, no matter what. The point is that you can't defend your own views without being completely familiar with the other side's arguments and reasons. Sadly, there appears to be quite a few people on this board who only know their side of things, and sometimes not very well either.

    April 16, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • shermlin

      Thank you!

      April 16, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  4. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    "You asked a child to support the notion that the Holocaust was justified, that's my struggle," said Vanden Wyngaard. "It's an illogical leap for a student to make." Stephen Prothero did point out that this was not likely to be the actual objective of the teacher. Actually, it should have been. Everyone who actively supported and participated in the events leading up to the Holocaust, and the Holocaust itself, most likely did feel that it was all justified. Discovering how they believed they arrived at justification and what that justification consisted of should have been the whole point of the exercise. Could we have persuaded ourselves by similar means? Or was it peculiar to Germans of a particular generation?

    April 16, 2013 at 8:16 am |
  5. WASP

    TOP TEN LIES TAUGHT IN SCHOOL TODAY:
    10) Deoxygenated Blood Is Blue (Which Is Why Your Veins Appear Blue)- IT'S DUE TO LIGHT REFRACTION
    9) There Were Thirteen Original Colonies In America – THERE WERE ONLY 12, DELAWARE WASN'T EVER A COLONY
    8) Liquid Glass- DON'T ASK JUST SOUDS STUPID TO EXPLAIN IT.
    7) Europeans Invaded Africa and Kidnapped the Slaves- NOPE AFRICANS REALLY CAPTURED THEIR OWN PEOPLE AND SOLD THEM TO EUROPEANS FOR MONEY.
    6) Abraham Lincoln Was Strongly Opposed to Slavery- NOPE HE WAS MAKING A POLITICAL MOVE AGAINST THE SOUTH, READ THE DOCU/MENT HE WROTE.
    5) Diamonds Are Made from Coal- NOPE JUST MADE OF THE SAME SUBSTANCE, CARBON.
    4) The Founding Fathers Were All Christian- ATHEISTS ALREADY KNOW THIS ONE TO BE FALSE.
    3) Van Gogh Cut Off His Own Ear- APPEARANTLY LOST IT IN A SWORD FIGHT.
    2) Humans Evolved from Apes- NOPE WE EVOLVED FROM A COMMON ANCESTOR
    1) Thanksgiving (All of It)- TRUST ME LOOK IT UP. TOO MUCH TO WRITE ON HERE.

    April 16, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Delaware had a large degree of independence from Pennsylvania from the early 1700s. Not technically a separate entity by 1776, it was treated as one. Just an example of what makes a lie, I guess.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Austin

      Do you really think your eternal soul evolved from an animal? think again about that.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Atheist, me?

      7
      There people sold as slaves were either already enslaved prisoners of war, people local slave raiders kidnapped or kidnapped by European slave raiders. Indeed the first attempt to kidnap someone was by the Portuguese. So read more.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Jan

      Yes, Austin. Whatever it is that people have that *you* think is an "eternal soul" evolved from more primitive forms of life.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • The real Tom

      Austin, we evolved from a common ancestor. There's plenty of evidence for it. There is no evidence a soul exists at all. None.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Science

      Austin is in denial or he can not read maybe ?

      April 16, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Austin

      That's not true. There is plenty of evidence that NOTHING has evolved beyond the family. A dog will never be anything but a dog. There is no way that there would only be one species of humans had there been evolution we would have an enormous variety of innertransitional forms. That is my honest opinion.

      And beyond that, I have experienced spiritual revelation. I was given the truth about the power of God through supernatural sovereign resurrection power. The living God, is exactly the invisible person that you hope is not real. I understand how rediculous you feel God's plan is, being a hell and needing a savior, but when God reveals Himself, you become thankful that you know the truth.

      If you do not seek God, and you walk hand in hand with a world who willfully rejects God, then you will be rejecting the God given truth, and denying your creator the relationship He seeks from you. Turn to the cross. Come to the cross. He is risen.

      April 16, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Austin

      science there are other fish with fins that are used as pusher type appendages. they arent legs. the belong on that fish.

      April 16, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • The real Tom

      There is NO evidence a "soul" exists. There are mountains of evidence that evolution occurs.

      You can blather on, Austin, as I know you will, but you cannot prove either of those statements false.

      April 16, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • Jan

      Austin, you've described how you see your God. However, since you are having a problem understanding evolution, please tell us what you do know about it, and maybe we can help you get past the stumbling blocks keeping you from understanding it.

      April 16, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • The real Tom

      "rediculous"

      I don't heed the words of idiots who can't figure out what's wrong with this and learn not to post it.

      April 16, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • Science

      Hate to say it Austin .........................but this is WAY over your head ! (The carbon)

      Nn gods needed !

      Brain Development Is Guided by Junk DNA That Isn't Really Junk

      Apr. 15, 2013 — Specific DNA once dismissed as junk plays an important role in brain development and might be involved in several devastating neurological diseases, UC San Francisco scientists have found.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130415172010.htm

      April 16, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • WASP

      @austin:
      "That's not true. There is plenty of evidence that NOTHING has evolved beyond the family. A dog will never be anything but a dog. There is no way that there would only be one species of humans had there been evolution we would have an enormous variety of innertransitional forms. That is my honest opinion.
      And beyond that, I have experienced spiritual revelation. I was given the truth about the power of ZUES through supernatural sovereign resurrection power. The living ZUES, is exactly the invisible person that you hope is not real. I understand how rediculous you feel ZUES' plan is, being a hell and needing a savior, but when ZUES reveals Himself, you become thankful that you know the truth.
      If you do not seek ZUES, and you walk hand in hand with a world who willfully rejects ZUES, then you will be rejecting the ZUES given truth, and denying your creator the relationship He seeks from you. Turn to the cross. Come to the cross. He is risen."

      REPLY:
      1) there would only be one species of human seeing ore than one would be competeing for the same food supplies; one shall live the other shall fall. that is the way of nature. apes and humans out competed our common ancestor for food, thus it went extinct and we survived.
      2) "that is not true" and "That is my honest opinion." are contridictory statements. one states fact, the other opinion; so which is it austin?
      3) see how easy it was to fill in any "god" i like into your nicely written, pre-programmed statement? 🙂
      4) " I have experienced spiritual revelation." yup and i call that a dream, i have those every once in awhile. most of mine involve hot women i'll never lay, but that is what a dream is for. ROFLMFAO. XD

      April 16, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Roth

      You forgot this link, Science:
      http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/Junk-DNA-20130107

      In the 1970s, evolutionists began calling the rest of it "junk DNA", saying this collection of useless evolutionary debris in order to fit the Darwinian paradigm. This mind-set unfortunately discouraged active research and exploration in that field.

      (they didn't want to know 'God did it', so they discouraged active research)

      April 16, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Field Guider

      Stuck in 70's now, Roth?

      April 16, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Roth

      Two ways to look at this:

      1. In science's zeal to keep God out the description of what he'd made, science hindered science itself.
      2. God threw stumbling blocks in the path.

      Someday God might say which it was, maybe a mix of both?

      April 16, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Science

      Hey Roth....................you are stuck in the soup aye ?

      Origin of Life: Power Behind Primordial Soup Discovered

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130404122234.htm

      The serect papers of life ! the church is full of it.

      April 16, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • WASP

      @roth: god will only talk to you and only in your head.
      science is straight about it doesn't know everything, we make mistakes and we change once held theories, that is proof that science is a progressive endeavour.

      here is a logic problem for you: how can something PERFECT create an IMPERFECT product?

      April 16, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • The real Tom

      Roth: the day you can produce evidence that evolution didn't occur, let the media know.

      April 16, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, there is no definitive proof that Van Gogh didn't cut off his own ear. There is merely a theory (put forward in a book) that claims that Paul Gauguin cut if off in a fight and that Van Gogh lied to protect him.

      April 16, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  6. Kids these days

    It's a persuasive essay, they aren't supposed to be easy or on something you like all the time. Kids today aren't allowed to study both sides of an issue anymore. We need to teach children to be more creative and to think on their own for once, and understand that good, the bad, and the ugly sides of what has happened in our history. I agree with the teacher 100% he/she was trying to get the students to see things from a different perspective, how is that wrong? I'm in no means saying that the Holocaust was wrong, but I'm sure a lot of you people will call me out on this, I don't care because your so simple minded that you can't realize the overall perspective of an assignment like this, not to mention you don't know me, or my values and are simply name calling because you don't agree.

    April 16, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • ThisnThat

      "I'm not saying the Holocost was wrong ". You would be a perfect student in her class. Non-thinking, non-critical, a perfect sponge to soak up all those biased, incorrect positions you so eagerly look for.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • clarity

      "I'm in no means saying that the Holocaust was wrong"

      Maybe this needs some clarification . . .

      April 16, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • clarity

      I don't think that's what they meant, ThisnThat.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  7. Maxwell.C

    Recent High School graduate. I do recall such an event in my English class during the 10th grade. Our English teacher asked us to write two essays over segregation. 1. Pro-segregation 2. Anti-segregation I found no problem with writing the essays. But some of my fellow classmates were a bit...perturbed... No one reported the teacher and I don't see reason why. Teachings like this are necessary and should not be frowned upon.

    April 16, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • Saraswati

      Your teacher presented the assignment well by requesting that both essays be written.

      April 16, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • ThisnThat

      Here's your next writing assignment, Maxwell: "Blacks are inferior to White People in every possible way". You MUST take that position, and defend it. How does this assignment compare with your high school "segregation for/against"one? See any difference?

      April 16, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • ThisnThat

      Maxwell, here's another way to think about the "Jews are evil"assignment. The teacher, instead, could have done what your HS teacher did - present the situation as "Say you are a German living in NAZI Germany, and you see that Jews are being treated differently. Half the class present the case for this treatment; the other half present the case for equal treatment". In this assigment, one person arguing "for" the mistreatment might come to a conclusion: "Jews are evil", and would have to defend it. Instead, though, the teacher came to that conclusion herself. She somehow believes this. And therefore, she pushes this agenda to the class, and hides behind ït's a writing assignment" disguise. Her approach, and your "segregation" assignment are completely different.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Jan

      ThisnThat wrote –

      "Instead, though, the teacher came to that conclusion herself. She somehow believes this. And therefore, she pushes this agenda to the class, and hides behind ït's a writing assignment" disguise"

      That is utter nonsense. There is nothing indicating that the exercise had anything to do with the teacher's beliefs. You are the one with the misguided agenda here, since you are obviously either too uncomfortable with this type of exercise or you are too uneducated to understand it.

      April 16, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  8. Ajax

    Another one guilty of falsely equivalent nonsense. You cannot be so misguided that you don't realize the objection to the assignment wasn't in the subject of the material but in the structure of the lesson. It is a simple thing to teach persuasive writing (after all, they see it everyday in almost everything they come in contact with) as well as the history of WWII, including the holocaust without forcing the students to sadistically support the position of indefensibly genocidal Nazi propaganda in an exercise to accomplish what?...........the realization that genocide and racism are bad but some people are willing to be convinced to do it anyway? I'm certain they already know that, it is a common feature of every genocide. If this was a history class, I would imagine that their English teachers must have been horrified. If on the other hand the lesson had been set up as a debate, it may have had value but it wasn't. Either you completely misunderstood the article and the objections of everyone involved with this moron of a teacher or you are another one of the disturbingly numerous closeted fascists that seem to have weighed in on this with some veiled bigotry couched in a fraudulent message about "political correctness" and the "freedom to teach". Either way, shame on you.

    April 16, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • ThisnThat

      You are correct, Ajax. This teacher had an agenda, and used the power of her position to push that agenda. And I don't know anything about Stephen Prothero, but the description at the top of the page stating that he is a religion scholar is clearly false. He is no scholar, IMO. I wonder if he would be so bold to claim that 'Muslims are evil"?

      April 16, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • Jan

      You obviously missed what the agenda was, ThisnThat.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • The real Tom

      This, have you spoken to the teacher?

      I think you're the one with the agenda. You don't understand the assignment that was given. i doubt you've bothered to read any other news source concerning this story. Why don't you do that before you shoot off your trap?

      April 16, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • ThisnThat

      Jan, get your act together. You are eager to embrace the teacher's "Jews are evil" statement. But, you instantly reject my "The teacher has an agenda" statement. You don't know me; and you don't know the teacher. Yet - you are chosing sides, and then claiming that only I exhibity bias and come to unfounded conclusions. You need to look into the mirror, and stop being so obviously leftist. There is a right and wrong in this world. The teacher is wrong. Accept this, and get over it.

      April 16, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Greg

      This, these people are right – this stuff flew right over your head if you see the teacher as having some evil agenda with this assignment.

      April 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
  9. ThisnThat

    Stephen Prothero, you"re a complete idiot. I have some other writing assignments that maybe you could approve, too. How about: Women should not Vote. Or, Black Slaves Should be Re-Introduced. I'm sure that someone with your sophisticated and oh-so-superior views would support these and many, many similar assignments, right?

    April 16, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • Jan

      Being that you seemed to have missed the point of the exercise, it's a given we can ignore your baseless screaming.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  10. MOCaseA

    "The teacher responsible for coming up with and assigning students with this task must be held accountable for attempting to indoctrinate children with anti-Semitic beliefs."

    Yet you force many educational systems to teach creationism and obvious mythology as fact? You force your religious beliefs into our education system, our laws, our every day lives because.... why? Just another example of one way or the highway thinking.

    April 16, 2013 at 6:14 am |
    • Science

      No creationism can not be taught in public schools...................ID/creation lost at the Dover Trial !

      There is no gods !

      Look up Prof. Higgs ...................... a teacher !

      April 16, 2013 at 6:25 am |
    • Science

      Evolution wins hands down time for god(s) to get the hell out of the way......so humanity can move forward.

      Peace

      April 16, 2013 at 6:43 am |
  11. Marc

    Because today's christians don't practice hate on their own... Oh no never! (sarcasm off) Apparently this chucklehead isn't going to look at today's republicans.

    April 16, 2013 at 5:18 am |
  12. MC

    What a bunch of garbage. What is a student supposed to do to get a good grade on an assignment like this? Recite a lot of anti-Semitic propaganda?

    April 16, 2013 at 4:25 am |
    • Pickle

      Sometimes it's OK to get an F on an assignment.

      April 16, 2013 at 4:39 am |
    • Jack Waterman

      When I first heard of this, I admit that I too thought it completely reprehensible. But as I have had a chance to hear the different viewpoints, I realised that most of the reaction against this seems to be coming from our inability to come to terms with the idea that, given the right set of conditions, we too would do the same as the Germans in the 1930s. It is easier and more comfortable to say we would do differently but the reality was that these were normal, civilised, educated people who began to believe, and then embrace, a lie. Yes, there was a lot of cultural conditioning and hundreds (if not thousands) of years of covert (and overt) anti-Semitism, but for that to convert into ELIMINATIONIST anti-Semitism and genocide took many steps (as anyone who studied Nazi Germany knows). Part of that process was for normal, educated, civilised "Christians" to accept the Nazi viewpoint that Jews were evil and needed to be purged from society and the earth. By assigning this topic to his students, this Albany teacher forced his students to confront the uncomfortable, namely, the demon within that could argue for a worldview in which the extermination of the Jews was not only acceptable, but ideal. If we forbid this kind of teaching, this very direct confrontational self-examination, we then silence a very important voice in objective thinking.

      April 16, 2013 at 5:04 am |
    • Pickle

      Force them to "confront" or "give into"? Maybe their next assignment could be why they want to be atheists?

      April 16, 2013 at 5:34 am |
    • Science

      Hey biggles ......................you talking out your ass again ?

      April 16, 2013 at 5:49 am |
    • Science

      Oops .........pickle ........too.

      April 16, 2013 at 6:05 am |
    • Pickle

      I do not deserve the honor of being confused with biggles.

      April 16, 2013 at 6:13 am |
    • Katie

      Do you understand what a persuasive essay is?

      Just because one is asked to take a very unpopular stand, for argument's sake, doesn't mean one is being asked to condone it. We had an assignment in my college class – to read an essay about abortion and to argue against it. In other words, find the flaw in the argument and write persuasive essay stating the opposite. It didn't mean the teacher was pro-abortion, although many students went ballistic about having to read "such garbage" and reported him to the administrative staff. One student walked out saying she didn't pay good money to be fed a liberal agenda. I happen to be pro-choice myself, but I found several reasons to argue against the essay and I wrote a good essay with a pro-life opinion. That was the point of the assignment.

      That was the point of this assignment – to get people to think with their brains instead of their emotions. It didn't mean they had to agree. They were supposed to start understanding how to write a good persuasive essay, which means understanding how to formulate a clear opinion and supporting it with facts. Most people these days have absolutely no idea how to argue – present a statement and back it up – and they have this twisted belief that listening to their opponents (or god forbid – UNDERSTANDING them) somehow means they condone or agree. If you don't know what the other side thinks and why, you can't possibly persuade anyone to change their minds.

      April 16, 2013 at 6:16 am |
    • Big Swaq

      they wanted the kids to open their minds lest they become ignorant, like you sir

      April 16, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • Pickle

      The Nazi's killed 6 million jews. You want students to argue for that and get a good grade if they do a good job saying killing Jews is good.

      That's like saying it's good that the soldiers scourged Jesus nearly to death, nailed him to a cross and waited for him to die, naked... and that kids should get a good grade if they "like" it.

      April 16, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • Science

      Hey pickle.................no confussion ............................biggles too..................poof goes the dragon !

      An illusion it is.

      Engineering 'Ghost' Objects: Breakthrough in Scattering Illusion

      Feb. 19, 2013 — A team at the NUS Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering led by Dr Qiu Cheng-Wei has come out with an optical device to "engineer" ghosts.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219090643.htm

      April 16, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Pickle

      I would rather have God within me, than a ghost in a microwave.

      April 16, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  13. Schwartzman Cometh

    A good education is important. Learning something daily is important. What's the optimum that could be learned from this assignment??? How to pass the buck and pick scapegoats? Any message board like this or one of prothero's columns could serve that purpose. The so called teacher is a bum and should have known better.

    April 16, 2013 at 3:03 am |
    • jdburnit

      The "optimum that could be learned from this assignment" would be that intelligent, educated adults in advanced, cultured societies can be persuaded to be complicit in something as horrific as the persecution and attempted annihilation of an entire people, and that we must be careful to always remember that we "moderns" are not necessarily above such things?

      Or we could just teach them to call people whom we know nearly nothing about bums, as if this somehow furthers public debate.

      April 16, 2013 at 4:20 am |
    • Katie

      You missed the point entirely. The point of the assignment is to think. To be able to let go of your emotions and grasp the reasons why someone has done something. Until you are understand the flaws in someone's reasons you can't find a way to argue against them and support the opposite side. This is how things like the Holocaust happen – people are unwilling or unable to make coherent arguments to persuade others into changing their minds. If we don't understand why everyone believed the propaganda and went along with mass genocide, we won't know how to look out for it happening again, we won't be able to stop it.

      April 16, 2013 at 6:21 am |
    • ThisnThat

      Katie, this assignment isn't about thinking about a situation. The teacher stated a conclusion: "Jews are evil". SHE has provided the class the conclusion, and the reason why NAZI Germany killed so many innocent people. So, instead of asking her class to come to a conclusion themselves, she instead is asking them to defend her conclusion - "Proposition", I believe the article called it. She left absolutely no room for disagreement, discussion, or original thinking. It's got to be one of the worst examples of teaching I've come across in a long while.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • clarity

      ThisnThat – here you really show that you didn't understand the entire objective of the assignment. You mention the reference to "proposition" but didn't understand the impact of that regarding the objective. Other clues should have been "instructed to imagine" and "persuasive writing assignment".

      April 16, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  14. HumanAdventure

    You should never be forced to say awful things. No matter who you are or who is telling you to say them.

    April 16, 2013 at 2:20 am |
    • Katie

      So we shouldn't talk about why Jesus was crucified? We shouldn't talk about why religion was used to justify torture, war, mass killing, deportation, slavery, or domestic abuse? We should talk about why children are kidnapped, drugged, and forced into private militias in Africa? We shouldn't talk about how priests brought small pox-infected blankets into stubborn Native American tribes so that they were more accepting of European immigrants bent on setting up populations for commercial business on their land? If we never understand the WHY and the HOW, how will we ever recognize how to prevent or stop the terrible things people will do to each other?

      April 16, 2013 at 6:27 am |
  15. David

    Thank you for shedding light on a great teacher who teaches kids to think! Not just regurgitate facts. People who attack this teacher are idiots that have not looked into the INTENT of the assignment.

    April 16, 2013 at 2:19 am |
  16. Brandon

    Simple comment. Thank you for keeping with real education, not babysitting.

    April 16, 2013 at 2:07 am |
  17. sandi

    excellent post Jeremy. We also did these kind of simulated history role plays in my high school before it became pc NOT to. Can and should teach young people how to see conflicts and moral ethics from the other side of the mirror. It's a shame this teacher is being persecuted.

    April 16, 2013 at 2:03 am |
  18. Kanamit

    Think this assignment could not encourage and convert students into Nazism today because we're so much more aware of history? Is this a NEW controversy?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Wave

    April 16, 2013 at 1:52 am |
    • Katie

      Teaching students to think and to write well converts them to opposing viewpoints?

      You should seriously think about what you're saying here.

      April 16, 2013 at 6:32 am |
  19. Jeremy

    I agree.

    When I was in middle school, we had a mock trial, and we had a prosecution and defense for the British soldiers that commited the Boston Massacre. It was a learning experience, and one of my finest school moments (I was the prosecution, we won). Everybody learned from it. What we have here is PC run amok, and I'm usually the first to point out the merits of being politically correct. This is just pulling wool over people's eyes so they don't see the horrors of history and what can go bad. The nazi's would in fact, approve.

    April 16, 2013 at 1:28 am |
  20. biggles

    Clinton lied about his failure to intervene in Rwanda. Only 800,000 were slaughtered because he ignored the information he said he didn't receive.

    Where is Sandy Berger these days? Is he out of jail for stealing terrorists threats Clinton asked him to remove from the NARA?

    April 16, 2013 at 1:17 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.