Ten Years After: A Look at Teaching 9/11 Today

By Erik W. Robelen — September 01, 2011 1 min read
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With the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks only days away, we have an EdWeek story out taking a closer look at how the issue is handled—or not—in classrooms. Some observers suggest the topic typically gets little or no attention in most classrooms. Indeed, it’s not mentioned in more than half of state’s social studies standards, according to a forthcoming study. (We do cite specific examples, however, of how some states do include the issue in their standards.)

Of course, there are great examples of educators and schools trying to dig deeper, not simply teaching about the events of 9/11, but probing in depth the causes and consequences, and promoting greater awareness of the many issues involved. We also try to identify educational ripple effects. For instance, we came across schools here and there that now offer electives on the Middle East. We learned of teachers trying to dispel troubling stereotypes about Muslims and Arabs (namely, that all of them are somehow terrorists or terrorist sympathizers).

We even discovered that the teaching of Arabic in U.S. schools, while still rare, is on the rise in U.S. schools. (In 2006, President George W. Bush unveiled the National Security Language Initiative, which includes Arabic on a list of “critical need” languages. In announcing it, he invoked the war on terror and the nation’s needs in defense, intelligence-gathering, and diplomacy.)

We also highlight some examples of curricular materials out there to help educators who want to spend more time with 9/11.

To be sure, it’s safe to say that many schools around the country will bring up 9/11 this month, whether simply to memorialize or to also discuss the issues. But the larger question is the extent to which schools embed 9/11 and its impact into curricula in meaningful ways to help students make sense of the changes and challenges the attacks sparked, in America and globally.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.