Students in Oswego County, New York were asked to argue for and against the Nazi's "Final Solution" as part of an assignment.
The "Final Solution" was Nazi Germany's plan to exterminate the Jews, which was formulated and implemented during World War II as an answer to the so-called "Jewish Question." As the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum explains, "Six million Jewish men, women, and children were killed during the Holocaust—two-thirds of the Jews living in Europe before World War II."
Two students, Archer Shurtliff and Jordan April, were "disturbed by the assignment," when they received it earlier this year, according to Syracruse.com. After the students voiced their concerns to the teacher and school administrators, the school offered alternate assignments to students who didn't wish to participate, but they did not retract the original assignment.
The assignment was offered in a "Principles of Literary Representation" class taught through the CiTi/BOCES New Vision Program — which allows high school students to take college-level courses on SUNY's Oswego campus three times a week. According to Syacruse.com, there were no Jewish students in the class that year.
According to the text of the assignment, the debate was not meant for people to be sympathetic to the Nazi point of view, but rather the assignment was meant to get students out of their comfort zones and teach them to debate points that are against their ideological perspectives, Syracruse.com reports.
Education reporter at Syracuses.com, Julie McMahon, posted the assignment on Scribd.
However, according to Shurtliff and April, during the debate students felt comfortable giving Nazi salutes.
The students contacted the Anti-Defamation League and a reporter, because they like the New Vision Program, but don't want it's reputation to be harmed by this assignment. "Our teacher is not a bad person, he just made a mistake and won't apologize for it," Archer said according to Sycracuse.com.
Earlier this week New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia defended the assignment, saying that similar exercises could increase critical thinking.
Christopher Todd, superintendent of CiTi District Superintendent gave ATTN: the following written statement:
"The Center for Instruction, Technology & Innovation's main focus will forever be student success. We embrace creativity and respect, and all of the students in the class were offered an alternative project of their choosing, three of which took advantage of that opportunity and completed the assignment successfully. The teacher apologized to the entire class and assured them that the assignment will not be used in the future."
However, ADL Education Director Beth Martinez told Syracsue.com that there should never be an assignment that hints that there are two sides to the Holocaust.
The Anne Frank Center int he U.S. released the following statement:
"It's a settled opinion," Shurtliff told Syracruse.com, "You can't say that Jews deserve to die. It should be a settled thing."