A high school English teacher in Albany has been placed on leave following widespread outrage over a persuasive writing assignment in which she asked students to pretend they needed to convince a fictitious Nazi official that “Jews are evil.” District Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard had already apologized for the assignment during a news conference Friday, reports the Associated Press. The local Times Union was the first to break the story and reported Saturday that the teacher, who has not been identified, was not in class Friday. The district is now mulling what type of disciplinary action to take, with the superintendent saying it could range from a letter of reprimand to termination.
In preparation for the reading of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night, the teacher assigned three sophomore English classes the writing assignment: “You must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!” One of the classes refused to finish the assignment. “I was putting it off because I didn’t want to think about it and I didn’t want to say anything bad about Jewish people,” one 16-year-old student said. “We thought it would make more sense if we were Jews arguing against Nazis.”
This is hardly the first time a homework assignment causes national outrage. In February, a principal of a Manhattan school ordered sensitivity training after a teacher used slavery to try to teach fourth graders math. In one of the questions, the teacher asked students to calculate how many whippings a slave who “got whipped five times a day” received in a month.