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NNER: “The Assignment”: A Book on Ethical Learning

NNER: “The Assignment”: A Book on Ethical Learning

On April 12th, 2021, National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) hosted a member-exclusive presentation led by Liza Wiemer, award-winning author of “The Assignment.” The presentation focused on the inspiration behind the book as well as other assignments similar to the one presented within the pages.

“The Assignment” is about a group of students who are protesting an assignment in which a history teacher asks students to put themselves in the time and place of the Holocaust by weighing in as Nazi authorities on what the best course of action was to be done with Jewish individuals. This type of debate format with historic moments of great injustice and harm is not uncommon in the United States school system. These types of assignments have become more well-known after media attention wherein students protested discussions such as these as highlighting another side to slavery and genocide. That concept of another side is one that Liza focuses on throughout her book and the presentation.

In her argument, the idea of another side allows for some level of credibility to the arguments that the oppressive individual is making. As she states in her presentation, often “you are opening the door for these beliefs and harmful actions.” Such assignments are done with the mentality that a student should be able to act objectively no matter the source of topic. Yet, these teachers or school systems are often upset when students ask to either not take part or ask for the teachers to halt the lesson when there is a question of ethics about such tasks and discussions. Often, there are other teachers who may even be afraid to confront the teacher or school curriculum for fear of retaliation or ostracization from their community.

In her discussion, Liza asked the educators present to consider what they would do if students came forward with concerns about acting as though they were slave owners or genocidal perpetrators. These concerns of objectivity over empathy and ethics are also part of the book and an essential piece of consideration when working as an educator. As the presentation wrapped up, Liza mentioned that morality is part of education and the ideas of democracy are an essential piece to effective learning as highlighted in the NNER mission.

In the last piece of time, Liza mentioned the importance of encouraging other voices to the discussion area and being willing to learn and to grow from previous mistakes. She highlighted that there is a great deal of concern when people are angered by being confronted with harmful actions rather than taking time to learn and hold a certain level of accountability. Other life experiences are also a crucial element of education and these can be introduced at any level through literature wherein the main characters may not appear to be like the students in life experiences or cultural backgrounds (Examples: Brown Bookshelf, Brightly, etc.). Within the book and the discussion, it is necessary for the field of education to grow and to recognize when pieces of acceptability shift as morality changes with the introduction of other voices and other pieces of knowledge.

Webinars such as these which highlight various topics of democracy and education can be found through the NNER First Thursdays of each month. For more information on Liza’s book, you can visit Liza Wiemer is also always eager to hear from educators and the work that is being done at school districts, so she encourages people to contact her at

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