Students Assigned to Decide if President Trump is a Fascist
Ninth graders were told to research “Evidence that Mr. Trump talks/behaves like a fascist.”
A history teacher at Haverhill High School in Massachusetts ignited outrage and controversy when he assigned students to determine whether various “identifying characteristics of fascism” are exemplified by President Donald Trump.
The homework assignment was titled “Some People Claim that Donald Trump is a Fascist: Time to Check it Out!” and was given to ninth grade students by their history teacher.
“Political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt wrote an article about fascism,” begins the assignment. “Studying the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and Pinochet (Chile), Dr. Britt found they all had fourteen elements in common, the identifying characteristics of fascism.”
Students were then asked to use the internet and other sources to determine whether these fourteen “identifying characteristics of fascism” also apply to President Trump.
According to the assignment, the qualities common to fascists (and possibly applicable to President Trump) include “Powerful and Continuing Nationalism,” “Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights,” “Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause,” “Rampant Sexism,” and “Controlled Mass Media.” Two columns next to each characteristic ask students to provide either “Evidence that Mr. Trump talks/behaves like a fascist” or “Evidence Mr. Trump does not behave like a Fascist.”
Even in liberal Massachusetts, some citizens support President Trump or still believe in the principle of nonpartisan public education—and they were quick to vent their outrage.
“I support the president,” commented parent Dave Prescott to a local news channel. “I support a lot of the things he does. And for them to talk about fascism, in regard to the president, I just think this isn’t what I’m sending my kids to school for.”
Speaking out in a public letter, Haverhill Principal Glenn Burns admitted that the assignment “missed the mark” and may “have created a learning opportunity that skews the thinking of our scholars.” Nevertheless, he denied that the purpose of the assignment was to impugn president Trump: “It was evident to us that the prompt may have skewed the debate or provided the perception that we were looking for scholars to prove Donald Trump was a fascist. This was not the intention of the assignment and we apologize.”
Haverhill Education Association President Ted Kempinski also buttressed the principal’s claims that the assignment was merely an exercise in critical thinking, not an attack on the President. “The purpose of the assignment was for students to analyze documents and think critically, that they develop the skills to analyze documents and come up with their own factually based opinions,” he said.
But many in the community remain unconvinced. “I have an older child that had the same teacher a couple of years ago. He did not receive the assignment: Why or why not is Barack Obama a fascist?” one parent noted on Facebook.