The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. —THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1788

Muslim school superintendent defends Common Core-linked assignment questioning Holocaust *UPDATE*


“All right, class. Today, we are going to test your ability to think critically. I want you write a paper arguing, pro or con, that the story of the transatlantic slave trade was a political hoax manufactured to sway public emotion.”

The putative assignment above would be grounds for the immediate dismissal of a teacher anywhere in the country. But imagine the same task in which the phrase transatlantic slave trade was replaced by Holocaust. Would any school district countenance its dissemination to middle school students?

The San Bernardino Sun confirms that it not only would be but was by the Rialto Unified School District, of Rialto, Calif. The office of the district’s interim superintendent — whose name is Mohammad Z. Islam — maintains that the assignment is intended “merely to teach students to evaluate the quality of evidence made by advocates or opponents of an issue.”

Here is the assignment, which was handed out in April:

When tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence. For example, some people claim the Holocaust is not an actual historical event, but instead is a propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain. Based upon your research on this issue, write an argumentative essay, utilizing cited textual evidence, in which you 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. Remember to address counterclaims (rebuttals) to your stated claim. You are also required to use parenthetical (internal) citations and to provide a Works Cited page.

District spokeswoman Syeda Jafri explains that the assignment was developed by district teachers in connection with the eighth grade’s reading of the “Diary of Anne Frank” in April. It is aligned with Common Core Standards, which promote, among other things, critical thinking skills.

The Los Angeles-based Anti-Defamation League expressed its concerns to Superintendent Islam on Friday. Matthew Friedman, associate regional director of the L.A. office, said in an email:

An exercise asking students to question whether the Holocaust happened has no academic value; it only gives legitimacy to the hateful and anti-Semitic promoters of Holocaust denial.

It is also very dangerous to ask junior high school students to question the reality of the Holocaust on their own, given the sheer volume of denial websites out there. If these questions do come up, it’s better to show the huge preponderance of evidence that’s out there (testimony, documentation, death camp sites, archaeology, etc.) and to also question why people would question the reality of the Holocaust (many motivated not by historical curiosity, but by anti-Semitism). Also, who are the people questioning the Holocaust and what do real historians say? This is more of an issue of teaching good information literacy.

School board member Joe Martinez emailed back the following reply:

One of the most important responsibilities for educators is to develop critical thinking skills in students. “This will allow a person to come to their [sic] 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 [sic] 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.’

Jafri insists that Rialto Unified has received no complaints regarding the assignment. She adds:

There is no doubt the Holocaust was one of the most horrific, traumatic time-pieces in our history. We want our students to engage in developing critical thinking skills and have an in-depth perspective on the importance of the Holocaust. Although I received one email last week in reference to this subject, the district has not received any concerns about this writing prompt from any teachers, administrators or parents. However, due to its sensitive nature, we are always open to go back and examine the [writing] prompt.

Los Angeles ABC affiliate KABC reported yesterday that Jafri has received death threats. If true, that just makes an abominable situation worse.

UPDATE: The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports that, following numerous angry calls from parents, “administrators acknowledged the assignment was in poor taste and promised it would not be given again.”

In a prepared statement, Syeda Jafri said:

Our interim superintendent will be talking with our Educational Services Department to assure that any references to the Holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future Argumentative Research projects.

Related Articles

Howard Portnoy has written for HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

More by

Posting Policy
We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse. Read more.
You may use HTML in your comments. Feel free to review the full list of allowed HTML here.

  • Christine-Upinak Shartzer

    I am not sure how the Diary of Anne Frank, and then handing out a assignment of Holocaust denial is the same. I must live on another planet for these people to pull this crap off.

    • Howard Portnoy

      What most fascinates me about this story is that with the nearly infinite range of suitable topics for critical thinking assignments, they end up choosing things like Holocaust denial and adultery. I understand our students are lagging behind those in other countries educationally, but maybe the solution is better teachers and administrators.

      • Christine-Upinak Shartzer

        I completely agree on the ranges. I have to say most “kids” would be better suited for a business critical thinking, as they seem to understand that better. As for the “life skills” ranges, it doesn’t work well with middle grade kids, for the most part, and this scenerio is just mind blowing. *BOOM* I think my head exploded.

  • Robert Jacoby

    How about the moon landing? And did Pearl Harbor actually happen? You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. The Nazis meticulously detailed what they were doing, and it wasn’t just Jews. It was also communists, Catholics (some), homosexuals, Slavs (Germans might have won in the east if they partnered with Ukranians, but they chose to shoot them), and the mentally & physically disabled.

    And it wasn’t just the Germans, Margaret Sanger in 1947 still talked about eugenics. Heck, even today Peter Singer thinks it’s ok to kill a baby for the first few months post birth. But that’s progressivism for ya.

  • c j

    I’m struck by the illiteracy of both school board member Joe
    Martinez and district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri. Certainly, the nincompoops that
    drew up their hateful “prompt” should be fired. Failing that, the
    idiots that “oversee” this train wreck of a school district must be
    removed; and the children and young people being abused by these racist
    jackasses should be protected by a state minder.

  • AmeRican*51*Luis Arroyo

    If Newark’s Bold intelligent superintendent Cami Andersom (a white blonde) had this happen under her watch with “black intelligence” the topic….SHE’D BE BOOTED OUT.


    • Jay Picus

      Islam is a hate crime.

      • AmeRican*51*Luis Arroyo

        Look at “the religion of peace” just inspired…massive girl kidnappings to be sold as “holy concubines”.


    I guess people better wake up to the fact that this is America, not some 3rd World Dust Bowl………and if anyone doesn’t like how we live here and what we believe, they are free to LEAVE……

  • wwjdroy

    “Did Mohammad really write the Koran, speak to God or ascend to heaven and form a religion,or is Islam another political government vehicle to dominate women, oppress people, kill those who don’t agree and take over lands?”

  • oicu812a

    A righteous threat of violence and emotional blackmail have shut down improper inquiry once again! Hooray for the thought police! Europatopia here we come! (FWIW: Neither use of “[sic]” was necessary, as the original text is grammatically sound. Of course, our being leftists means we will keep using passive-aggressive tactics edgewise, right comrade? Like that old saying goes….”If the shoe fits, cram it in!”)

    • Howard Portnoy

      The first [sic] signified a lack of pronoun-antecedent number agreement. “This will allow a person to come to their own…”

      The second signified a pronoun shift — from “his” (or “their”) to “your” within a single paragraph of discourse: more a problem of style than grammar.

      I am particularly sensitive to this when it comes from a “teacher.”

      • J.e. Dyer

        I do congratulate you, HP, on sustaining a visit from the [sic] police. :-)

      • Howard Portnoy

        Thanks, J.E. I’m trying — I’m trying real hard — to be the shepherd.

      • cozmo

        As someone who occasionally makes that mistake, even I caught the bad grammar. oicu812a must be a product of that school board member back when he was a teacher. Bless his heart. Even the subject of the post was way out in left field.

        I ain’t buying the death threats either. Not to the point of using it to gain sympathy any way.

      • oicu812a

        “Their” is a widely accepted alternative to “his/her” or “his or her.” It also perfectly avoids the PC drama over using just “his” or just “her.” And the pronoun-shift thing is a massive stretch by you. Your use of [sic] is the equivalent of scare-quoting: you didn’t need it but to marginalize the speaker.

      • Howard Portnoy

        Widely accepted by whom? What drama? Tell you what. Let’s make this easy. Let’s use the transgender pronouns “blkfdjjf,” “sjjsjds,” and “ze” as soon as anyone figures out what they’re supposed to be and how they’re pronounced. Then we’ll all be happy.

      • oicu812a

        You just can’t admit that your “[sic]” edits were unnecessary or were intended to marginalize the speaker. Your average reader may not care or even notice, but discerning grammarians know better.

  • Xavier

    Today’s assignment: Write a paper arguing that Roe v. Wade was neither legal nor moral, and that countless millions of children have been slaughtered to keep Progressives in power. Extra credit for bringing race into the discussion.

    • Howard Portnoy


  • Howard Portnoy

    Good catch, Xavier. I had missed that piece of scholarship.

  • Badluckbill

    Syeda Jafri? Did the school district really have to go to Pakistan to find a qualified spokesperson? Looks like the schools today cannot educate anyone to to anything!

    • Jay Picus

      Qualified spokesperson?

  • J.e. Dyer

    I can’t believe none of y’all conspiracy nuts has thought of the most obvious one of all.

    Based upon your research, write an argumentative essay, utilizing cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, or was born somewhere else; e.g., in Kenya. Remember to address counterclaims (rebuttals) to your stated claim. You are also required to use parenthetical (internal) citations and to provide a Works Cited page.

    • pandainc

      Hi, lady O. You’re never going to make jg at this rate.

  • lil-echoes

    How on earth with a name like the Supt.. has ever get a job in one of our schools…. my oh my.. are the schools changing for the people of this country.

  • lil-echoes

    If one thinks this is the ONLY time you will be seeing Muslim this…. Muslim that.. Muslim everything… ya sadly mistaken.. it’s only the beginning… via OBAMA’s ORDERS…..!!!

  • Grumpy

    Let’s go for one that would annoy Mohammad Z. Islam —

    In the 500 years before the Civil War ended slavery in America, who had more involvement in actually harvesting humans for the purpose of enslaving them? Do a comparison between

    The number of times Christian Europeans and Americans conducted slave raids in Africa attacking villages for the purpose of capturing people to enslave them


    The number of times African Muslim slave raiders attacked European communities for the purpose of capturing people to enslave them.

  • Duna

    My Mom’s cousin is in her 70’s. She said her teachers told her as a child that the day would come when this would happen and the Holocaust would be denied. They knew from the beginning that this would happen. People do not change.

  • BobMbx

    Where’s the question about whether stoning actually occurs at the hands of Religion of Peace, or is it a hoax as well?

  • SuperByteMan

    I’ve even had people tell me that Sandy Hook and Columbine didn’t happen, and that it was all staged, with the Media’s support. People believe what they want to believe. And it doesn’t matter how many proofs are found. When I pointed out to one denier that photographs take by later ships clearly showed evidence of human activity on the moon, his denial was based on the thousands of pictures that NASA would not let us see. He couldn’t get the idea that a good photographer takes thousands of pictures in order to get the ones that are best. My dad was satisfied if he shot an entire roll of film and only got one usable picture for his public relations work.