In an op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, New York University History Professor Jonathan Zimmerman writes that historically U.S. teachers have often been restricted from honestly critiquing the country’s military conflicts—and may have even less leeway now than at any time since the 1960s. This is an especially important matter as we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he argues:
To be sure, the best teachers have always taught their students to probe, question, and think. And on Sept. 11, they'll do it again. Who attacked us, they'll ask, and why? What did we do in response? Did we do the right thing? And what should we do now?
But they'll do so at their peril. And many other teachers will remain mute, or will simply repeat platitudes about America as a land of liberty. Our restrictions on teachers contradict that ideal, echoing a tragedy with a very deep history. Let's see if we can use this anniversary to change it.
Is Zimmerman right? Do you plan to address 9/11 and the subsequent U.S. War on Terror? Do you feel restrained from doing so honestly?
Personally, given how heated the issues sorrounding 9/11 are, I can’t help thinking that some school-level restrictions on how teachers discuss them—at least in terms of instructional context and objectives—might very arguably be appropriate and necessary.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.