It Shouldn’t Require Sensitivity Training to Know How Wrong This Is

After a public uproar, a California school board has apologized profusely for an eighth-grade assignment that asked students to “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.” The assignment also included extensive text lifted from a Holocaust denial and conspiracy website as one of three sources students were to use in fashioning their arguments.

As a part of the school board’s mea culpa, it is requiring teachers to take sensitivity training.

Really? Do they think this assignment shows a lack of sensitivity? How about a complete abdication of pedagogical responsibility, which is generally assumed to involve helping students learn the difference between historical fact and fantasies produced by fevered imaginations.

As one horrified columnist wrote

Along with entries on the history of the Holocaust from and the History Channel, they offered the students supporting “material” titled “Is the Holocaust a Hoax?” that was taken from a Christian site. The document cites the execution technology “expert” Fred Leuchter, a leading denier, and presents a “theory” that Anne Frank’s diary was forged. “Israel continues to receive trillions of dollars worldwide as retribution for Holocaust gassings,” the document continues. “Our country has donated more money to Israel than to any other country in the history of the world—over $35 billion per year, everything included. If not for our extravagantly generous gifts to Israel, every family in America could afford a brand new Mercedes Benz.”

This is the sort of thing that happens in a society where there must be two sides to every issue, a society in which the media pursues “balance” at the expensive of objective, verifiable fact. Would the clueless authors of this assignment require students to consider whether the sun goes around the earth, rather than vice-versa? Or perhaps they could argue whether the colonists or the British won the Revolutionary War?

Then when they grow up, they can dismiss results of all the previous fact-finding investigations, and debate what they think really happened at Benghazi.

Listen, you twits: teaching that the holocaust actually happened is not a bow to the “sensitivities” of the families of Jews, gays, gypsies and righteous Christians who perished. Teaching about things that we know have happened is what we do in classes called history.

In the real world that diminishing numbers of us inhabit, some things are true, and some things aren’t. Education should teach students how to tell the difference.

Students need to know that facts are facts, whether some people choose to believe them or not.


  1. A local WWII vet gave me his photos from a death camp he helped liberate. He said, “Make sure no one ever gets by with saying this never happened.”
    What the hell is wrong with people whose greed and hatred of the ‘different’ leads them into such foolishness?

  2. Have you ever spoken with a survivor of a concentration camp who remembers going into the showers not knowing if they would walk out? Have you ever spoken with an Army war bride who, as preteen and early teen years did the family black market trading because she was the fastest runner? During that time her two Jewish half-sisters were hidden in the family attic in Amsterdam, Holland, while their husbands worked with the Dutch underground. She was chased by the “brown shirts” when they saw her buying a black market fish for the family dinner; she was hit by a trolley and left because the “brown shirts” thought she was dead. Does anyone else wonder why the disbelievers need to deny the Holocaust – from beginning to the end? The aftermath of that time in OUR hisory will always be with us, contrary to the disblief of the relative few who speak probably only to enjoy the sound of their own voices.

  3. A complete abdication of teaching responsibilities. It’s one thing to teach that there are deniers in the world, but this was just insane. Forget the sensitivity training. How about Teaching 101 as a refresher course?

  4. OMG. I think we are missing a bit of history because every school should have Howard Zinn’s “The People’s History of the United States” as a must-read in History Class in my opinion. Good Grief. This is so bad, I can’t think of what else to say about it.

  5. Sensitivity training falls ‘way short of what is necessary for the teachers and the board of education. Who are these people? How can they dare to call themselves educators? Bill and ALG hit it squarely on the head. This one defies all logic.

  6. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, I have many Jewish friends with family members that were there that experienced the situation, I have seen the tattoos from Auschwitz!! I mean there are people still in this country who deny the first Holocaust the American Holocaust, where 100 million Native American’s were brutally killed, raped, and made to follow another belief by force, and the children were sent to christian boarding schools to have the native disciplined out of them!! So why does this surprise anyone, its white privilege, and a mainstream society that wont learn from its past!! Did the Jewish Holocaust happen damn right it did, did the American Holocaust happen damn right it did, and no matter what anyone says it had its affect globally, as a full blood Native it outrages me that this goes on as it simply proves that mainstream society will never admit its dark secrets, and move on so that we can all learn and grow and become the latticed society that we should be, its stuff like this that keeps us apart, because honestly were all in this together, whether we like it or not, about time society woke up and realized that, we Natives have forgiven and moved on, have we forgotten NO!!! Because the debauchery still goes on, but we fight it every day, and when others join the fight then the journey wont be so bad, and the battle not so arduous!

  7. Rau BlackHawn; thank you for your words of wisdom. I grew up on cowboy and Indian movies till old enough to read the truth and realize they were propaganda to perpetuate the myth covering up atrocaties. I do not celebrate Columbus day nor do I remember the Alamo. I remember when we celebrated two President’s birthdays – President George Washington and President Abraham Lincoln. We must admit there are presidents whose birthdays as well as their administrations deserve no celebration. When it comes to being “politically correct” I pick and chose by following my conscience.

  8. I apologize for misspelling your name; that should of course read Rau BlackHawk!

  9. Actually most native americans were wiped out by old world diseases, not by wars. Indians actually did pretty good in wars, probably because they knew the land a lot better than the newcomers. And since colonization various tribes have fought on every different side of the colonial powers against each other during colonial squabbles in north america. But by the 1800s there were so few indians left to enslaved after having been wiped out by disease, that colonists actually had to import slaves from africa! But that’s another story…

    Anyway, as for the Rialto, California fiasco, never let these sneaky dregs of society get away with calling an exercise like this ‘critical thinking’. An exercise in critical thinking would be to expose the students to the holocaust denial rhetoric and then explain thoroughly why it is wrong, debunking every single claim which has been done countless times before at resources like It is NOT an exercise in critical thinking to tell a class of eighth-graders to go on the internet, soak up whatever is there, and then tell the teachers which ‘side’ is right… the teachers should be doing the teaching, not telling impressionable kids to go scour the internet for stupidity, and that if they like the sound of that stupidity it equates to ‘critical-thinking’.

  10. Having been a teacher at one time, I hope there is more to this story than has made the national news. Absolutely, the Holocaust was real and a blight on our history, but could it be that the objective of this assignment was to teach students how to discern real facts from faux facts. I’ll concede that something other than the Holocaust would have been a better subject for the assignment, but teaching students how to separate the wheat from the chafe on cable new and the internet seems like a worthwhile goal to me.

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