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Subject: "Convince me that Jews are evil!" teacher assignment. Creative or too far? rss

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Trey Chambers
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http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/12/us-usa-newyork-naz...

As an English teacher, I would never give such an assignment. But mostly because of the hell I would catch over it, like this teacher did. As long as the teacher put it in the proper context, I have no problem with the assignment. It was an exercise in persuasion and empathy. I think it's interesting and useful to force yourself to see the world through the eyes of people who we vilify and who are difficult for us to understand.

Nazis have basically become caricatures in our culture (as have Jews during the Holocaust). I see the value in learning that these Nazis were actual people who bought into a big lie. I think it makes us LESS doomed to repeat history than just pretending they were some enigmatic, ultimate evil force and human beings could NEVER do something like that again.

I'm interested in hearing both sides though.

Poll: What did you think of the assignment?
Was it a creative assignment that allowed students to empathize with human beings they've largely been taught to characterize and simplify or was it insensitive and offensive to Holocaust survivors?
It was creative
It was offensive
      64 answers
Poll created by Shampoo4you


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Steve Cates
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Too far for high school. Maybe a upper division university philosophy class with a response.
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Kelsey Rinella
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I can imagine a context in which this would make sense. Perhaps followed up with an assignment on the horrors of the Holocaust and then some exploration of reasonable hate speech laws--I suspect those who've seen hate speech succeed at causing the awful things it seems intended to and who've been sympathetic to it are more likely to want it curtailed more severely (as is my impression of modern-day Germany).

I'd be surprised and impressed if something like this were in place in this case.
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col_w
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The poll presents the options as exclusive when they're not.
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Trey Chambers
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col_w wrote:
The poll presents the options as exclusive when they're not.


How did I present them as exclusive? It's a complicated issue, if I had a poll option for every single way to view it, there would be hundreds if not thousands of options. It is more useful to simplify it greatly, and you can use the thread to discuss the specifics of your opinion.
 
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Trey Chambers
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ironcates wrote:
Too far for high school. Maybe a upper division university philosophy class with a response.


Maybe, maybe not. I taught sophomores for a couple of years. You might be surprised at how intelligent many of them are. And the more shallow ones can be found at every grade level, university not excluded.
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lotus dweller
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Shampoo4you wrote:
col_w wrote:
The poll presents the options as exclusive when they're not.


How did I present them as exclusive? It's a complicated issue, if I had a poll option for every single way to view it, there would be hundreds if not thousands of options. It is more useful to simplify it greatly, and you can use the thread to discuss the specifics of your opinion.
Not you, the poll.

I can only select "creative" or "offensive".
Not "creative and offensive" as I wish to.
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Kelsey Rinella
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Shampoo4you wrote:
How did I present them as exclusive?


By using radio buttons rather than checkboxes. No worries--internet polls are best as conversation starters, anyway.
 
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Trey Chambers
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rinelk wrote:
Shampoo4you wrote:
How did I present them as exclusive?


By using radio buttons rather than checkboxes. No worries--internet polls are best as conversation starters, anyway.


Oh that was intentional. I like to force people off of the fence. Sure you can view it as both creative and offensive, but what side do you come down on more?
 
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col_w
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What Pinook said. Creativity and offensiveness are unrelated concepts, so being forced to choose between one or the other (and not their opposites) is a false choice, biasing the results and making it useless.

If you want exclusive options you need two questions: one asking if it is offensive or not offensive, one asking if it is creative or uncreative.

On topic: the teacher was dumb if he did not realise the can of worms this would open, and the potential serious consequences on his career.
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I think it could be a great learning opportunity.

But given a teacher who wasn't clear in their instructions, students who wanted media publicity, a school administration who didn't support their teachers and a publicity hungry local politician it might go very pear shaped. And valuable learning time would be filled with turmoil and anguish.

In near ideal circumstances it might go great.

Doing a cost benefit analysis leads me to reluctanly think that a safer project would be more likely to deliver greater returns in average conditions.
 
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I see it's hard to write polls for robots.

OnT: I think they should have highlighted the issue by choosing another group, a group that is normally not persecuted and that is not represented in the class. Say, surfers, Alaskans, Swedes. And in subsequent discussion relate any insights from the experiment to attitudes towards various minorities in various localities.
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Mac Mcleod
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This is a lose lose assignment.

Fail or write something that will haunt you the rest of your life.
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maxo-texas wrote:
This is a lose lose assignment.

Fail or write something that will haunt you the rest of your life.
How can you differentiate this from your school years though?


Having read the article I think important elements of the society which contains that school are broken. The lack of support for the teacher by the bureaucracy, the inability to explore exciting and powerful topics in what should be a safe environ, the puerile insistence on political correctness, ... .
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I think this was a badly worded assignment, but I can also understand the idea behind it. In order to understand an idea you have to understand the thought processes that create the idea. As the OP says the Nazis have become a matinee caricature, divorced from the real nature of their evil. This exercise is no different then one demonstrating racism by allowing someone to victimize another.
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Blorb Plorbst
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I think it's inappropriate for an English class. There are plenty of other ways to teach persuasive writing that don't invoke genocide.


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Isaac Citrom
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I guess they'd have to adjust the school's proxy server to allow through all the white supremacist (etc.) web sites, for research.

I can't get enough of brilliant, out-of-the-box thinking teachers.

Another of my favourites is, "I don't believe in math exercises."
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It could have easily been "Instances of how societies historically made justifications for purging or displacing other cultures by labeling them as evil" and not created as much controversy.

As then is would encapsulate those who are offended...e.g. Jim Crow, Japanese Internment, Trail of Tears, etc. etc. etc....




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Trey Chambers
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MWChapel wrote:
It could have easily been "Instances of how societies historically made justifications for purging or displacing other cultures by labeling them as evil" and not created as much controversy.

As then is would encapsulate those who are offended...e.g. Jim Crow, Japanese Internment, Trail of Tears, etc. etc. etc....



Good point. If the teacher had framed it as "Choose an abhorrent point of view, then write an essay from that point of view and try your best to convince me that it is justified." I doubt it would have raised any eyebrows, even if some of the students had chosen the Nazi point of view.
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Shampoo4you wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
It could have easily been "Instances of how societies historically made justifications for purging or displacing other cultures by labeling them as evil" and not created as much controversy.

As then is would encapsulate those who are offended...e.g. Jim Crow, Japanese Internment, Trail of Tears, etc. etc. etc....



Good point. If the teacher had framed it as "Choose an abhorrent point of view, then write an essay from that point of view and try your best to convince me that it is justified." I doubt it would have raised any eyebrows, even if some of the students had chosen the Nazi point of view.


Are you sure?

There are a lot of people working night on day to prove all kinds of things. There is no shortage of complete books and giant websites expounding in detail about Jews, Blacks, whatnot.

Is this really what you want your kids doing; spending their weekend browsing racist websites, getting a good foundation on their idealogies, and directing/exposing them to their online forums?

Thanks, but I think I'd stick with traditional methods of education for my kids. They have no need, in my opinion, working hard to prove why blacks are inferior.
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isaacc wrote:
Shampoo4you wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
It could have easily been "Instances of how societies historically made justifications for purging or displacing other cultures by labeling them as evil" and not created as much controversy.

As then is would encapsulate those who are offended...e.g. Jim Crow, Japanese Internment, Trail of Tears, etc. etc. etc....



Good point. If the teacher had framed it as "Choose an abhorrent point of view, then write an essay from that point of view and try your best to convince me that it is justified." I doubt it would have raised any eyebrows, even if some of the students had chosen the Nazi point of view.


Are you sure?

There are a lot of people working night on day to prove all kinds of things. There is no shortage of complete books and giant websites expounding in detail about Jews, Blacks, whatnot.

Is this really what you want your kids doing; spending their weekend browsing racist websites, getting a good foundation on their idealogies, and directing/exposing them to their online forums?

Thanks, but I think I'd stick with traditional methods of education for my kids. They have no need, in my opinion, working hard to prove why blacks are inferior.
.
Yes, lets not let then think for themselves but instead tell them what to think.

Ideas can only be defeated if you understand where the idea is coming from. They will find out this kind of information (and the websites) anyway, this may be good way to address what they find in a controlled environment rather then not knowing what they have found. Have them look for the information then critique it in class.
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Shampoo4you wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
It could have easily been "Instances of how societies historically made justifications for purging or displacing other cultures by labeling them as evil" and not created as much controversy.

As then is would encapsulate those who are offended...e.g. Jim Crow, Japanese Internment, Trail of Tears, etc. etc. etc....



Good point. If the teacher had framed it as "Choose an abhorrent point of view, then write an essay from that point of view and try your best to convince me that it is justified." I doubt it would have raised any eyebrows, even if some of the students had chosen the Nazi point of view.


The problem with that (or with this kind of exercise in general) is that someone, sometime will see the papers without the specific context of the classroom, without the thought processes and discussions. Imagine a paper from this class making its way to the Internets, without context. And it will happen.
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Trey Chambers
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isaacc wrote:
Shampoo4you wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
It could have easily been "Instances of how societies historically made justifications for purging or displacing other cultures by labeling them as evil" and not created as much controversy.

As then is would encapsulate those who are offended...e.g. Jim Crow, Japanese Internment, Trail of Tears, etc. etc. etc....



Good point. If the teacher had framed it as "Choose an abhorrent point of view, then write an essay from that point of view and try your best to convince me that it is justified." I doubt it would have raised any eyebrows, even if some of the students had chosen the Nazi point of view.


Are you sure?

There are a lot of people working night on day to prove all kinds of things. There is no shortage of complete books and giant websites expounding in detail about Jews, Blacks, whatnot.

Is this really what you want your kids doing; spending their weekend browsing racist websites, getting a good foundation on their idealogies, and directing/exposing them to their online forums?

Thanks, but I think I'd stick with traditional methods of education for my kids. They have no need, in my opinion, working hard to prove why blacks are inferior.
.


I think it is more beneficial to understand where the hate comes from and to understand that these are human beings who were led astray and became filled with hate. How can you recognize true racism if you don't even understand it?

And when has "this is evil, stay away" ever prevented people from learning about or adopting such beliefs? How can they understand why their thought process was flawed and hateful if they don't even understand the thought process at all?

Is it a better lesson to say "This is wrong." or is it a better lesson to say "This is wrong because..."?
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Shampoo4you wrote:
isaacc wrote:
Shampoo4you wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
It could have easily been "Instances of how societies historically made justifications for purging or displacing other cultures by labeling them as evil" and not created as much controversy.

As then is would encapsulate those who are offended...e.g. Jim Crow, Japanese Internment, Trail of Tears, etc. etc. etc....



Good point. If the teacher had framed it as "Choose an abhorrent point of view, then write an essay from that point of view and try your best to convince me that it is justified." I doubt it would have raised any eyebrows, even if some of the students had chosen the Nazi point of view.


Are you sure?

There are a lot of people working night on day to prove all kinds of things. There is no shortage of complete books and giant websites expounding in detail about Jews, Blacks, whatnot.

Is this really what you want your kids doing; spending their weekend browsing racist websites, getting a good foundation on their idealogies, and directing/exposing them to their online forums?

Thanks, but I think I'd stick with traditional methods of education for my kids. They have no need, in my opinion, working hard to prove why blacks are inferior.
.


I think it is more beneficial to understand where the hate comes from and to understand that these are human beings who were led astray and became filled with hate. How can you recognize true racism if you don't even understand it?

And when has "this is evil, stay away" ever prevented people from learning about or adopting such beliefs? How can they understand why their thought process was flawed and hateful if they don't even understand the thought process at all?

Is it a better lesson to say "This is wrong." or is it a better lesson to say "This is wrong because..."?


I'm not sure of the value of spending a lot of time on things that are wrong. There is not enough time as it is in high school, much less devoting entire assignments into working through wrong arguments.

I take it this was a public school?
.
 
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isaacc wrote:
Shampoo4you wrote:
isaacc wrote:
Shampoo4you wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
It could have easily been "Instances of how societies historically made justifications for purging or displacing other cultures by labeling them as evil" and not created as much controversy.

As then is would encapsulate those who are offended...e.g. Jim Crow, Japanese Internment, Trail of Tears, etc. etc. etc....



Good point. If the teacher had framed it as "Choose an abhorrent point of view, then write an essay from that point of view and try your best to convince me that it is justified." I doubt it would have raised any eyebrows, even if some of the students had chosen the Nazi point of view.


Are you sure?

There are a lot of people working night on day to prove all kinds of things. There is no shortage of complete books and giant websites expounding in detail about Jews, Blacks, whatnot.

Is this really what you want your kids doing; spending their weekend browsing racist websites, getting a good foundation on their idealogies, and directing/exposing them to their online forums?

Thanks, but I think I'd stick with traditional methods of education for my kids. They have no need, in my opinion, working hard to prove why blacks are inferior.
.


I think it is more beneficial to understand where the hate comes from and to understand that these are human beings who were led astray and became filled with hate. How can you recognize true racism if you don't even understand it?

And when has "this is evil, stay away" ever prevented people from learning about or adopting such beliefs? How can they understand why their thought process was flawed and hateful if they don't even understand the thought process at all?

Is it a better lesson to say "This is wrong." or is it a better lesson to say "This is wrong because..."?


I'm not sure of the value of spending a lot of time on things that are wrong. There is not enough time as it is in high school, much less devoting entire assignments into working through wrong arguments.

I take it this was a public school?
.
It was a class about Nazi propaganda, and how it worked. They were not being thought to think like Nazi's but how the Nazi's thought.
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