February 22nd, 2014
January 3rd, 2014
April 13th, 2013

Our Education System Is a Complete Disaster

To wit:

High school is full of hypotheticals, like “How does one solve for x?” and “What happens if I skip class?” But this week, students at Albany High School were given an alarming thought puzzle: How do I convince my teacher that I think Jews are evil?

That question was posed to about 75 students on Monday by an unidentified 10th-grade English teacher as a “persuasive writing” exercise. The students were instructed to imagine that their teacher was a Nazi and to construct an argument that Jews were “the source of our problems” using historical propaganda and, of course, a traditional high school essay structure.

“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 rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!”

The assignment — first reported by The Times Union of Albany — prompted an embarrassed reaction from school district administrators, who were alerted to it by a concerned parent on Wednesday night.

“Obviously, we have a severe lack of judgment and a horrible level of insensitivity,” said Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, superintendent of Albany’s schools. “That’s not the assignment that any school district, and certainly not mine, is going to tolerate.”

Dr. Vanden Wyngaard, who met with Jewish leaders in Albany and made a public apology on Friday, said the assignment was apparently an attempt to link the English class with a history lesson on the Holocaust. The assignment itself seems to back up that theory, telling students to use “what you’ve learned in history class.” It also suggests using “any experiences you have.

And lest you think that this is an isolated problem …

[The assignment] echoed another recent, controversial assignment in Manhattan, where an elementary school class was given math problems featuring the whipping and killing of slaves, according to The Associated Press. That assignment was an effort to combine math and social studies lessons.

I don’t have any proof whatsoever that these assignments were motivated by racism or anti-Semitism. However, I have plenty of support for the proposition that they were motivated by extreme stupidity. And I am horrified to think that there are many more instances of stupidity—perhaps more subtle, but no less pronounced—occurring in our school systems nationwide. How kids can be expected to compete when they are held back by incredibly bad teaching is a complete mystery.


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