This article by Charles C. W Cooke at National Review was brought to my attention via The American Thinker.
I was discussing it with Kathy Shaidle earlier today.
We are in agreement that the point he seems to be making is that it is good and proper intellectual training to debate ideas, even odious ones.
I pointed out though that this is a very contentious, and in my view-stupid topic to make the case for debating training (or free speech for that matter). This particular case is tainted with a whiff of antisemitism, and it is a pretty short walk from Holocaust denial to antisemitism.
In fact, I would argue actually that Holocaust denial is a form of mental instability/illness and a good indicator of Jew-hatred. I am not convinced that an introduction to Holocaust denial for kids of this age is good or proper intellectual training.
The other point is that nobody seems to be making the case for a debate, you know-to train young minds blah blah blah, about "Did Mohammad exist or not?" So, there's that.
As well, Cooke gives several very different kinds of examples of debate topics:
United States should be a communist country”;
This is a question about opinion, not historical fact. The merits of this can be debated.
“The eugenicists had a
That there was a eugenics program in any given country is a statement of fact. One is entitled to an opinion about it.
“Sharia law would be good for the West”;
Again, this is a matter of opinion not a question of historical fact.
“War is always
This is a matter of opinion, and debate.
“9/11 was an inside job.”
This is insane, and not a matter of fact. This statement is not the same as the others. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 happened and were perpetrated by 19 Saudi Arabian jihadists.
It is not prudent, advisable or acceptable to have an American public school "debate" on a statement of fancy such as that.
And that is exactly why Mr. Cooke is completely wrong about the Holocaust denial assignment. One is entitled to have an opinion about historical events, no matter how odious. But debate topics ought not give credence to conspiracy theories.
"Why would we exclude one of the most
significant events of the twentieth century from the rule?"
Again, no opinion about a historical event should be excluded from debate. But questioning the actual occurrence of historical events, such as the Holocaust or 9/11seems of dubious intellectual value to me at the least and sinister at worst.