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Common Core assignment asks Calif. students to question Holocaust

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Did the Holocaust actually happen, or was it just a “propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain?" That's the question eighth-grade students in Rialto, Calif., were asked in an assignment designed to meet Common Core standards relating to critical learning skills, KTLA reported Monday.

“When tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence,” the assignment says. “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.”

Initially, the district defended the assignment, calling it a way to teach students to evaluate the quality of evidence, the San Bernardino Sun said. But the Los Angeles-based Anti-Defamation League disagreed.

“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,” said Matthew Friedman, associate regional director of the ADL. “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.”

One of the three approved sources in the assignment, KTLA said, claims the gassing of millions of Jews was a "hoax," and no evidence has shown Jews died in gas chambers. A section of the assignment also claims Anne Frank was a fraud.

“With all this money at stake for Israel, it is easy to comprehend why this Holocaust hoax is so secretly guarded,” the source adds. “In whatever way you can, please help shatter this profitable myth. It is time we stop sacrificing America’s welfare for the sake of Israel and spend our hard-earned dollars on Americans.”

The other two sources were located at history.com and about.com.

While condemning the lesson, the ADL said Monday it does not believe the assignment was part of "a larger, insidious," anti-Semitic agenda. Instead, the ADL said it was a misguided effort to meet Common Core standards.

Now, the school is set to revise the assignment, KTLA said. According to a statement from district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri, interim Superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam is set to talk with administrators to “assure that any references to the holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future Argumentative Research assignments.”

“This was a mistake. It should be corrected. It will be corrected,” Jafri said. “We all know it was real. The Holocaust is not a hoax. … I believe our classroom teachers are teaching it with sensitivity and compassion.”

Initially, Jafri told the Sun the district received no complaints about the assignment. District officials, however, said they received death threats over the phone from a man who claimed to be nearby.

This is not the first controversial Common Core assignment to be made public. Last October, we reported that one assignment asked students to remove and replace two amendments from an "outdated" Bill of Rights. Another lesson taught students a messianic view of Barack Obama and some Common Core math problems are literally unsolvable.

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