Eighth-grade assignment: Debate whether the Holocaust actually happened

Today’s dispatch from the “Department of What Were They Thinking:”

Eighth grade students in Rialto, California, were given an assignment to debate whether the Holocaust really happened.

The assignment instructions included three sources that students had to use, including one that said gassings in concentration camps were a hoax and that no evidence has shown Jews died in gas chambers, KTLA reports. One section of the assignment asserted that Anne Frank was a fraud.

Parents did not object to the assignment.

It wasn’t until a newspaper — the San Bernandino Sun — blew the whistle that critics forced the school to drop the assignment. But not before a member of the school board defended it:

“One of the most important responsibilities for educators is to develop critical thinking skills in students,” (school board member Joe Martinez) wrote in an email Friday morning.

“This will allow a person to come to their own conclusion. Current events are part of the basis for measuring IQ. The Middle East, Israel, Palestine and the Holocaust are on newscasts discussing current events. Teaching how to come to your own conclusion based on the facts, test your position, be able to articulate that position, then defend your belief with a lucid argument is essential to good citizenship. This thought process creates the foundation for a good education. The progression is within district board policy and also supports the district’s student inspired motto: ‘Today’s Scholars, Tomorrow’s Leaders.’”