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This Teacher’s Holocaust Game Is A Terrible Idea

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Teachers do great work. It is difficult to teach a bunch of teenagers about history, which is often ugly, when they just want to play with their phones and their 8-track players or whatever they’re doing these days. A teacher who attempts to find a way to relate to the kids and make a lesson fun and interesting can be a godsend, but those ideas sometimes fail to hit the mark by a wide margin, like this week when a Scottsdale teacher allegedly handed out a bafflingly offensive worksheet about a “Concentration Camp Game” for her class.

A Scottsdale 9th grader posted a photo of the alleged assignment plan, and it’s pretty astounding.

 The teacher’s game appears to be called “Classroom Camp,” and it involves having the children compete for survival by following orders.

“The reasons why some victims survived concentration camps were many,” the handout reads. “Some survived because they showed up to work every day and didn’t complain to the guards. They kept quiet and did what they were told. Others were just lucky! Just as survivors lasted in Holocaust concentration camps, so must you survive the Classroom Camp game.”

Not only is this a bizarre and terrible idea for a school assignment, the instructions make it sound like people died in concentration camps because they just didn’t show up at work every day and do as they were told. It makes survival sound so easy!

The project gets weirder. According to the “Camp Rules” in the handout posted to Twitter:

“The way you survive is just the same as you would survive in real camps. Expect from the moment you step into the classroom, Game is On! When I say “Game off,” that is code for “it is OK to relax.” You stay alive by:

  • participating in book discussions
  • being respectful to me and to others
  • showing up on time to class
  • no phones are out
  • no tattle-telling
  • no telling me what I should be doing as the teacher (my game, my rules :))
  • once you have “died” that does NOT give you permission to be a goof off and do whatever you want, or to try to make other people make mistakes along the way. This will result in leaving the classroom and reading on your own, phone calls to parents, and even a referral.
  • working hard on assignments
  • If you show up, listen to directions for the day, and work hard, you survive one more day

It sounds like the teacher has all the students’ pictures posted on a wall. You find out you “died” when you show up for class and see that your photo has been taken down. Students who “die” are reportedly given an identification card for a person who actually died during the Holocaust, and on the next day must present a small report about that person.

Learning about people who died in the Holocaust sounds great, and it is a good thing for educators to try to make classroom activities fun, but the rest of this project is astoundingly tone-deaf, especially the part where the kids can win candy.

General life tip: If you ever find yourself uttering the phrase “Holocaust Game,” you might want to stop whatever you are doing and double-check that it is not a terrible, awful, astonishingly bad idea.