Last week, the Brandeis Center was in touch with the Albany, New York, Superintendent of Schools, after an Albany High School teacher had assigned her class to write persuasively that Jews are evil. The Superintendent has now apologized to Albany families for the teacher’s misconduct. The Albany Times Union describes the assignment:
Think like a Nazi, the assignment required students. Argue why Jews are evil. Students in some Albany High School English classes were asked this week as part of a persuasive writing assignment to make an abhorrent argument: “You must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!”
Students were asked to watch and read Nazi propaganda, then pretend their teacher was a Nazi government official who needed to be convinced of their loyalty. In five paragraphs, they were required to prove that Jews were the source of Germany’s problems.
The Times Union reports that Albany’s superintendent has now issued a formal apology:
“I would apologize to our families,” she said. “I don’t believe there was malice or intent to cause any insensitivities to our families of Jewish faith.”
She said she understood the academic intent of the assignment — to make an argument based only on limited information at hand. Still, she acknowledged that it was worded in a very offensive manner. She did not identify the English teacher or discuss whether the educator faced any discipline.
Students were asked to make a rhetorical argument, drawing on previous lessons in crafting an opinion.
The Brandeis Center continues to monitor the Albany situation and to discuss with schools authorities actions that can be taken to ameliorate the damage which has been done.