The school called this “an exercise in critical thinking,” but the most important lesson from this Rialto school is that its educators need instruction in it. This middle school tasked its eighth-graders to study whether the worst genocide of the 20th century actually happened, or whether it was a myth designed for “political and monetary gain.” It also sent students to an Australian Holocaust-denier website for one of its principal sources (via Twitchy):

Take a look at the two other sources assigned to the students for their assignment, too. This point didn’t come up in the video report:

The English/Language Arts assignment, first reported Sunday by the San Bernardino Sun and provided to KTLA by the newspaper, asked students to write an argumentative essay about the Holocaust describing “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.”

The 18-page assignment instructions included three sources that students were told to use, including one that stated gassings in concentration camps were a “hoax” and that no evidence has shown Jews died in gas chambers.

“With all this money at stake for Israel, it is easy to comprehend why this Holocaust hoax is so secretly guarded,” states the source, which is a attributed to a webpage on biblebelievers.org.au. “In whatever way you can, please help shatter this profitable myth. It is time we stop sacrificing America’s welfare for the sake of Israel and spend our hard-earned dollars on Americans.”

The other sources were from the websites history.com and about.com.

Really? Why not add Wikipedia in there, too? If the school wanted to teach critical thinking, why not start by teaching students to look for primary sources? Since the earliest days of the commercial Internet, universities and foundations have put those primary sources on line so that students just like these could benefit from the research. Instead, Rialto sends them to non-academic aggregators … and the lunatics.

Why offer this assignment in the first place? The ADL notes that Common Core requires a project on critical thinking:

The ADL posted a statement, including the quotes from Friedman, on its blog on Monday.

“ADL does not have any evidence that the assignment was given as part of a larger, insidious, agenda,” the blog post read. “Rather, the district seems to have given the assignment with an intent, although misguided, to meet Common Core standards relating to critical learning skills.”

Perhaps we should add a requirement that educators have to pass any curriculum standard before they apply it to their students.

It’s not that teaching critical thinking is bad, or even age-inappropriate for young teens. In fact, it’s a darned good idea. However, the subject matter should be something where critical thinking actually applies — like, say, global-warming hysteria or moral relativism, just to name a couple of topics. It should involve a healthy process, like a resort to primary sources and academic discipline. Finally, it would be best confined to areas where eyewitness testimonies have not already documented the industrialized mass murder of millions.

Let’s give the final grade on Rialto’s educators to a leading expert on the Holocaust:

In an interview, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, noted a section in the assignment that stated Anne Frank was a fraud.

“Pedagogically, socially, morally — an F,” Cooper said of the assignment.

They have invited Rialto’s students to the center for an education on the Holocaust. It might be the only one available to them.