An assignment for 8th grade students (that's 13-14 years old) at a school district in California:
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 event, but instead is a propaganda took that was used for political and monetary gain. You will read and discuss multiple, credible articles on this issue, and write an argumentative essay, based upon cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe this was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth. Remember to address counterclaims (rebuttals) to your stated claim.
Deborah Lipstadt explains - in case it's not obvious - why this is such a bad idea:
When you ask a Holocaust denier why Jews would go to such great efforts to create the myth of the Holocaust, nearly all have the same ready answer: Jews have created this myth in order to deviously exercise political power and enrich themselves. They will cite the two things it is commonly said Jews “got” out of the Holocaust—reparations, and the State of Israel. It’s classic anti-Semitism founded on the notion that Jews deviously access power and do virtually anything for monetary gain, an idea that can be traced to the New Testament’s depiction of Jews in relation to the death of Jesus: The Jews sold out the Messiah and caused great grief to billions of his future followers all for a few pieces of silver....
Along with entries on the history of the Holocaust from About.com and the History Channel, they offered the students supporting “material” titled “Is the Holocaust a Hoax?” that was taken from a Christian site. The document cites the execution technology “expert” Fred Leuchter, a leading denier, and presents a “theory” that Anne Frank’s diary was forged. “Israel continues to receive trillions of dollars worldwide as retribution for Holocaust gassings,” the document continues. “Our country has donated more money to Israel than to any other country in the history of the world—over $35 billion per year, everything included. If not for our extravagantly generous gifts to Israel, every family in America could afford a brand new Mercedes Benz.”
In other words, they're legitimising the idea that Holocaust Denial is a perfectly reasonable position, and pointing the students at a load of hate sites.
According to the district, the draft documents were distributed to teachers in February, and no one complained. The teachers who created this assignment and the administrators who passed it on helped fulfill exactly what deniers have been trying to achieve for the past 30 years. Before the creation of the Institute for Historical Review—in Newport Beach, California, an hour or from Rialto—in the late 1970s, deniers, who have been around since the end of World War II, were closely associated with neo-Nazis. Their publications were plastered with swastikas and Third Reich imagery. The institute, intent on having denial be taken seriously, shed anything that smacked of sympathy for Hitler and his cohorts. Their aim was to appear as if they were scholars anxious to “revise” any mistakes in history. That’s why they called themselves “revisionists.” In fact, they were nothing more than anti-Semites and neo-Nazis who use Holocaust denial as a tool—which is why I call them “deniers,” and think it’s important others do, too.
The school district have said that the assignment will not be repeated.
Coming next: examining the evidence for and against the existence of slavery in the United States. Some argue that slavery is, in fact, a myth designed to explain why black people have historically been under-represented in the upper echelons of American society; a myth which allows them to get all uppity and riled up about perceived injustices instead of getting on with their lives and making money, like decent folks do...