Defending the Holocaust: A Free-Speech Assignment?

Published: 2017-04-07

From the very first words of the report at Syracuse.com about the “odd”  assignment high-school students from Oswego County high schools were given, which was to defend the so-called “ Final Solution ” in the Nazi Era, it was to be expected that there would be complaints. I also might add that this is not precisely the type of assignment that promotes of free speech at all.

In the New York Times, you can read that students were told, “Your essay must be five paragraphs long, with an introduction, three body paragraphs containing your strongest arguments, and a conclusion,” the assignment read. “You do not have a choice in your position: you must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationales from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!” ¨.

It is obvious that this assignment has to do more with “debate and rhetoric” than with really inquiring into a topic that is taboo at any school in America. It does not get the student closer to the real problem of taboo. All to the contrary, it is such a radical assignment that it enhances the taboo that makes the Holocaust impossible to deal with routinely in class in an open manner.

Revisionism is not about defending the Nazi regime and its crimes during WWII, and it is not about excusing anti-Semitism which is what this high-school assignment at Oswego County is promoting, more or less.

Maybe this assignment was not intentionally harmful (to revisionism) and it does seem to have had the aim of really having a discussion on a taboo issue that needs to be addressed in school where uncomfortable and unpopular views must not stop students and professors to seek the truth and to generate a truly free exchange of ideas.

What we want to happen in schools is that students can freely inquire about this history period without the fear that they are stepping into a forbidden zone. There should also be material that argues against the orthodox view in order for students to truly have an alternative view.

History must be studied at school as rigorously as Physics or Biology. Sentimentality cannot be a wall that forbids free inquiry, and open debate regarding  the Holocaust question .

But it is evident here, through this assignment, that teachers themselves are ignorant about Holocaust revisionism. It is possible that many of them do not consider revisionism as a serious discipline which tries to shed light into the intricacies of the complexity of this historical event we call Holocaust. It is also possible that many professors have never been in touch with Holocaust revisionist texts and ideas.

So, assignments such the one that was given at Oswego County high schools, create much more confusion in the student´s mind who might really want to know if there is another side to the historical truth they been told over and over.

Needless to say, this assignment has been canceled and will never, according to the New York State Education Department Commissioner, Mary Ellen Elia, be assigned again.

And of course, the ADL saved the world once more… ¨Evan Bernstein, the Anti-Defamation League’s New York regional director, praised the district and Elia after saying in a statement that “There is no assignment that could ever be given to students that even hints at a balanced perspective to the horrors of Nazi actions during the Holocaust …”

Everything is back to normal in the American public schools and no uncomfortable questions, no ¨odd¨ assignments may be given in classrooms. No way. For the sake of our vulnerable students, who must be guided through this topic with all the care in the world.

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Author(s) Roberto Hernández
Title Defending the Holocaust: A Free-Speech Assignment?
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Dates published: 2017-04-07, first posted on CODOH: April 7, 2017, 10:04 p.m., last revision: n/a
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