What if you had to argue that the high school teacher who assigned his students to justify the Nazis' antagonism toward the Jews had come up with a pretty good assignment or at least an acceptable assignment, especially since he asked the students "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... 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!”What if you had to argue that the teacher did not display "a severe lack of judgment and a horrible level of insensitivity," as charged by Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, the Albany, NY superintendent of schools? What if you had to argue that Wyngaard's reaction is anti-education and anti-academic freedom and destructive of the very mental powers that, if developed, enable a citizenry to resist government propaganda of the kind the Nazis deployed?
“The assignment is flawed in its essence,” Rabbi Eligberg said. “It asks students to take the product for a propaganda machine and treat it as legitimate fodder for a rational argument. And that’s just wrong.”What if you had to argue that Rabbi Eligberg was wrong to say that's wrong, because students will be subjected — throughout their lives — to propaganda that is much less obviously wrong and that will seem like rational argument and that working from the inside of creating propaganda from bad information, making it seem persuasive, is how you strengthen your power to resist propaganda and to dismantle it?
Nick Brino, a 10th grader, said he had heard about the assignment from a classmate. “I thought it was wrong,” he said. “But she was flipping out, saying if anyone was going to do it, she wasn’t going to be their friend.”What if you had to argue that requiring "palatable" lessons will make the students' minds flabby and lazy?
Ninth-grader Jyasi Nagel, though, said he thought the teacher was not anti-Semitic, but just trying to teach different points of view. Jyasi’s father, Moses Nagel, who is Jewish, said that he was not in favor of a harsh punishment for the teacher, but that another topic might have provided a more palatable lesson.
“It just seems like there’s a million other examples to use rather than going there,” he said.