Rialto Unified School District

Rialto Unified assigned a project in which students argued whether the Holocaust was real or fictional to all eighth-graders this spring, according to the district’s spokeswoman.

By Beau Yarbrough, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 05/04/14, 5:39 PM PDT |

RIALTO >> The Rialto Unified School District is defending an eighth-grade assignment that asks students to debate in writing whether the Holocaust was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain.”

The district says the assignment is merely to teach students to evaluate the quality of evidence made by advocates or opponents of an issue.

“When tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence,” the assignment reads. “For example, some people claim the Holocaust is not an actual historical event, but instead is a propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain. Based upon your research on this issue, write an argumentative essay, utilizing cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe the Holocaust was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain. Remember to address counterclaims (rebuttals) to your stated claim. You are also required to use parenthetical (internal) citations and to provide a Works Cited page.”

On Friday, the Los Angeles-based Anti-Defamation League was critical of the April argumentative writing research project and expressed its concerns to Rialto Unified’s interim superintendent, Mohammad Z. Islam.

“An exercise asking students to question whether the Holocaust happened has no academic value; it only gives legitimacy to the hateful and anti-Semitic promoters of Holocaust denial,” wrote Matthew Friedman, associate regional director of the Los Angeles office of the Anti-Defamation League, in an email on Friday.

“It is also very dangerous to ask junior high school students to question the reality of the Holocaust on their own, given the sheer volume of denial websites out there,” he wrote.

“If these questions do come up, it’s better to show the huge preponderance of evidence that’s out there (testimony, documentation, death camp sites, archaeology, etc.) and to also question why people would question the reality of the Holocaust (many motivated not by historical curiosity, but by anti-Semitism). Also, who are the people questioning the Holocaust and what do real historians say? This is more of an issue of teaching good information literacy.”

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