how to teach Sept. 11

My post for the day is over at CNN. It’s entitled “My View: How schools should handle 9/11 in class,” and it begins:

I can vividly remember September 11, 2001, but today’s fifth-graders were not even born on that day. For them, September 11 is history and often, a topic in their history class. Most teachers use best-selling civics and American history textbooks that describe the attacks on New York and Washington. And as of last fall, 21 states specifically mentioned 9/11 in their social studies standards.

Those are results from a scan of state laws and textbooks conducted by William & Mary professor Jeremy Stoddard and University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Diana Hess. My organization, CIRCLE, published its study last year.  The authors tell me that not much has changed since then.

When we released the study, many readers expressed dismay that September 11 was mentioned in less than half of the states’ standards – as if that meant that policymakers and educators did not care enough about terrorism. When lawmakers are concerned about any topic, they are often tempted to add it to the state’s social studies standards. The Illinois Legislature, for instance, has passed bills requiring or encouraging social studies teachers to spend time on Leif Erickson, the Irish Potato Famine and the importance of trees and birds. So why not mandate teaching 9/11?

[…]

The most important back-to-school question about September 11 is not whether to require it in standards, but how to address it if teachers decide to discuss it at all. …

About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.
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