Proof of the collapse of common sense and sensitivity in today’s hedonistic culture has again reared its head, this time in the form of a bizarre writing assignment from an Albany High School English teacher in Albany, New York. The project was due prior to the class’s reading of the memoir Night by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
The Albany Times Union reported, “For the assignment, the teacher asked students to research Nazi propaganda, then write a letter trying to convince an official of the Third Reich ‘that Jews are evil and the source of our problems.’
“‘Review in your notebooks the definitions for logos, ethos, and pathos,’ the teacher’s assignment said. ‘Choose which argument style will be most effective in making your point. Please remember, your life (here in Nazi Germany in the 30’s) may depend on it!’’’
The assignment admonished the 10th graders to “argue Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda.”
Solid rationale? Joseph Goebbels, the Nazis’ chief propagandist, created the rationale for killing 6 million Jewish people through lies told often enough to make genocide acceptable to the Germans. Why should his twisted thinking be revisited by historically limited, impressionable American students?
One 16-year-old who refused to participate expressed his rationale for defying the instructor: He didn’t want to say anything negative about Jewish people. It made more sense to him to pretend to be Jews arguing against Nazis. The student showed more intelligence than his teacher.
After a parent blew the whistle on the project, the district superintendent apologized, saying she did not think the assignment was malicious, but “it displayed a level of insensitivity that we absolutely will not tolerate.” The teacher was placed on leave.
Does it really matter that the teacher may have harbored no thoughts of hate mongering? No. What matters is that the instructor was forcing students to think like Nazis. Why would any American teacher want to do such a thing? It is unacceptable to encourage students, under any circumstances, to think like murderers who rationalized their cruel and savage attempts to exterminate Europe’s entire Jewish population.
The Holocaust involved the brutal slaughter of 6 million innocent Jewish people. About 60 million people died in World War II. This was no trivial incident and does not deserve to be reduced to a classroom assignment that defends the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Nazis.
Some Americans still remember the Nazi indoctrination of Germany’s Hitler Youth and the scenes of Hitler reviewing his young defenders of the Third Reich. Some remember their loved ones going off to war and dying on foreign battlefields. More than 100,000 American soldiers are buried in Europe after fighting the Nazis until their dying breath, and it is abhorrent to expose our children to pro-Nazi propaganda.
Beyond that, it is potentially dangerous. In the current cultural morass, where hate-breeding brutality and fantasy violence flood the social media and invade the minds of impressionable children, telling students to think like Nazis may eventually result in them acting like Nazis. Violence is on the increase, and many young people today imitate the actions of socially maladjusted individuals whom they look up to as role models.
Our language, manners, public conduct, and most of what has been the acceptable standard in the past have deteriorated—along with sensitivity and common sense. The qualities necessary for an orderly, law-abiding society are disappearing. Political correctness has skewed our sensitivities. Some groups of people are treated with kid gloves. Others, like Christians, Jews, and conservative Americans, are treated with contempt.
When a war against Christians is conducted, Holocaust denial is often unchallenged. And when the hardline, godless secularists propagandize the country, truth and propriety must answer. An encouraging example of truth at work was seen when one third of the three classes given the Nazi assignment refused to participate, followed by the outrage of parents who called for action by school administrators.
Sadly, in the world we live in, silence is no longer golden. We must stand up, speak up, and demand corrective action. You have a voice; use it. Do not go quietly into that good night.