George W. Bush left office deeply unpopular. But that doesn’t make him Adolf Hitler.
One Washington, D.C., middle school teacher asked sixth-grade students to consider the two leaders in a homework assignment focused on war and peace.
On Wednesday of last week, the McKinley Middle School teacher gave students a Venn diagram with the instructions: “Now that we have read about two men of power who abused their power in various ways, we will compare and contrast them and their actions. Please refer to your texts, ‘Fighting Hitler – A Holocaust Story’ and ‘Bush: Iraq War Justified Despite No WMD’ to compare and contrast former President George W. Bush and Hitler. We will use this in class tomorrow for an activity!”
According to The Washington Times, a parent of one of the students, who asked to not be named, called the school office to complain and was told that the assignment was of a curriculum unit approved by the D.C. Public School System. The parent told the Times it was “just not right” to compare Bush to the man who arranged the genocide of 11 million people he considered to be racially inferior. “I didn’t agree with Mr. Bush or his policies, but that was over the line,” the parent told the Times.
D.C. resident Matt Ashburn, a friend of one of the parents who snapped a photo of the worksheet, tweeted the image with the tweet reading: “Here’s a 6th grade assignment in DC asking students to compare President Bush to Hitler. This is so wrong.”
Here’s a 6th grade assignment in DC asking students to compare President Bush to Hitler. This is so wrong. pic.twitter.com/YUfUbIyqkR
— Matt A. (@mattashburn) September 10, 2014
In a written statement on Sept. 10, DCPS said the teacher admitted “to extremely poor judgment and short sightedness and will apologize to students. The school will also send a letter home to families explaining the incident and offering to address any additional questions should they arise.”
The Anti-Defamation League welcomed the school system’s acknowledgement.
“We are outraged that this assignment was ever given to students,” said ADL associate regional director Darcy Hirsh in a press release. “There is simply no valid comparison between President George W. Bush and the actions of Nazi leaders, and it is false and inaccurate to compare the conduct of the United States in the 21st Century to the Holocaust.”
Peter Fredlake, the director of teacher education and special programs at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum downtown, says the assignment wasn’t a constructive way help students learn.
“Making comparisons like this really doesn’t help students understand the history or lessons about who was responsible,” Fredlake said.
As someone who taught in the public school system for 30 years, Fredlake said it’s not unusual for teachers to look for ways to help students find relevance in history, but suggested that it’s the teacher’s responsibility to help students understand an often-complicated answer to why certain events took place.
School system spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz told the Times that the readings were approved but the texts weren’t meant to be compared as was done by the teacher, whose name was not released.