The Albany High School English teacher who essentially assigned students to defend the Holocaust perhaps deserved high marks for effort, creativity, even outrageousness — qualities that often make for good teachers — but failed to demonstrate a shred of good judgment, which is essential for all educators.
That said, the district needn’t do much more than scold the teacher and keep him or her on a short leash for awhile. Moreover, it may be just a bit hasty to conclude that the rest of the school community needs the heavy dose of “sensitivity training” that Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard apparently has in mind for it.
To be sure, there is a teachable lesson in the incident, but without evidence of a major intolerance problem, it probably doesn’t need to be sledgehammered home. Enough students — one-third, according to Vanden Wyngaard — were sufficiently offended that they refused to complete the essay. That’s pretty impressive in view of the autocratic tone the instructor adopted to assign it — perhaps in keeping with the subject matter.
Clearly, the assignment was offensive, and should have been to all students, Jewish, gentile, black, white, gay, straight, etc.
And as admirable as the teacher’s apparent motive may have been — challenging students to think creatively, and critically, even when doing so might contradict overwhelming conventional wisdom, not to mention their own beliefs — the method overstepped boundaries of taste that educators simply can’t ignore. The same point could have been illustrated using any number of controversial but less-sensitive topics.