Charles C.W. Cooke's Shameful Screed on Holocaust Denial
With much disgust, I discovered that National Review Online has officially mainstreamed Holocaust denial. By publishing Charles C.W. Cooke’s blog that pronounces that it “is a damn shame” that a California school district caved to pressure and withdrew an assignment requiring students to argue that the Holocaust did not occur, NRO is supporting the dissemination of an unbelievably offensive ideology that was formerly only espoused by psychotic tyrants such as Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Unlike the vast majority of respected opinions on the subject, Cooke bases his abhorrent position on claims that “There really is no better way of teaching critical thinking” than allowing debate on whether or not the Holocaust in fact occurred. Seriously?! As a practicing attorney for 26 years who developed critical thinking skills throughout my education, I feel confident in asserting that Holocaust denial has absolutely no place in the development of that skill set. And it certainly has no place in any classroom that desires to teach anything other than perverted ideologies and anti-Semitism -– period.
This is not about free speech. Holocaust deniers have every right to pronounce their idiocy if they so choose. But our classrooms are places in which students are taught not just to think but facts as well. The Holocaust occurred -– period. It is a fact not open to debate. If Cooke feels strongly about teaching critical thinking, then perhaps he could pen columns about all the classrooms that have shut down debate on global warming or whatever the latest left-wing terminology is being used to describe that obsession these days. If Cooke is so concerned that “so many discussions nowadays are conducted between narrow and sternly policed rails, any movement outside of which is instantly punished with accusations of bigotry or insinuations of malice,” perhaps he could pen a blog asking that teachers have students debate the question of whether or not Islam is a religion of peace. I’ll bet that would go over smashingly well in the public square.
Cooke states, “Why should children believe that the prevailing account of Holocaust is true [sic]?” He acknowledges that the historic record can “speak for itself” so why exactly should a debate questioning the historic record be an assignment and how does this teach critical thinking? Facts are facts -- and to crazy people like Holocaust deniers they can be pesky things. However, there is no debate over whether or not 1+1=2 anymore than there should be a debate that George Washington was the first president of the United States, that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, or that six million Jews were murdered by a fascist, hate-filled Nazi regime during WWII.
Cooke waxes eloquent about inviting ideas into our classrooms that people do not like and opening our norms up to “exploration.” The Holocaust is not an idea. It is not an opinion. It is not a scientific theory to be explored. It is a fact and students should be taught that it is not open for debate. There are plenty of topics that could be open for debate and exploration that are pertinent today including abortion, capital punishment (the subject of my own senior year civics class debate), global warming, universal healthcare, and gun control. The Holocaust is not a debatable topic to be explored and to suggest otherwise simply feeds into the hatred of those who spew this type of venom and who seek to further the mainstreaming of the discourse.
Cooke seems to believe that opening the topic up for debate with students “listening to the marginalized… exposes which of the popular counterarguments are weak and which are strong, and crucially, that it allows contributors to arrive at the truth by virtue of their own effort.” I repeat; there are no arguments available that disprove the Holocaust that should be pursued in any venue let alone a classroom where students are supposed to be learning history. There are no weak arguments let alone strong arguments to deny that the Holocaust took place -- only psychoses, ignorance, and anti-Semitism would lead one to that conclusion.
There is only one way to teach students about the Holocaust and it is by sharing the historic record, carefully documented in part by the Allied Forces at the orders of General Eisenhower who recognized the importance of ensuring that mankind understand what had transpired and to ensure that it would never happen again. And now, Cooke takes to the Internet to belittle those of us who find Holocaust denial one of the most odious and provocative offenses of our time.
And he does so in a completely inane way.
Great debate topics start from the other side of the status quo: “The United States should be a communist country”; “The eugenicists had a point”; “Sharia law would be good for the West”; “War is always wrong”; “9/11 was an inside job.” Why would we exclude one of the most significant events of the twentieth century from the rule?
Why? Because the Holocaust is not up for debate! Does Cooke believe that students should waste their time debating whether or not the earth is flat, the moon is made of cheese, the heart has four chambers, or Barack Obama is the first black President? Evil exists in the world and it took way too long before the world acted on its knowledge and defeated the German forces set out to annihilate an entire people. If Cooke is so concerned about teaching people to think critically, that’s fine but choose an appropriate topic of which there is no shortage. Do not however, give credibility to evil people who are the only ones discussing the deniability of the Holocaust.
With claims that by denying teachers the ability to use this disgusting assignment to teach students to think we are “indoctrinating our children with the values of the State,” Cooke has fallen off the deep end of politically correct nonsense. This is not, as he claims, “a great opportunity to teach people how to weigh sources, how to judge material evidence, and how to approach issues of great controversy.” How in the world did the NRO editors, who I have always admired and respected greatly, allow this ridiculous screed to be published?! There is nothing to weigh here, no evidence to judge, and the Holocaust is not a great controversy for any educated non-anti-Semitic human being. It is an historical fact and how dare Cooke and NRO relegate it to something that is open to debate.
And as long as Cooke is obsessing over critical thinking, it is worth noting that he omitted some of the material evidence that should be judged when analyzing how the assignment made it into the students’ classrooms. Whether intentional or not, Cooke failed his own logic by not disclosing that the superintendent and director of communications of the school district in question are Bangladeshi Mohammad Z Islam and Pakistani SyedaJafri, respectively. Coincidence? Let’s have a debate.