Teaching 9/11: How educators are responding 10 years later
Attempts to teach 9/11 has forced educators largely to abandon textbooks in favor of more flexible and vibrant resources – from online art to in-class presentations by witnesses.
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Teachers have to be creative in dealing with such a fluid and outsize event, says Terrence Sowers, literature and humanities teacher at Summit International Preparatory high school in Arlington, Texas. Mr. Sowers is teaching a month-long unit on 9/11 for the first time this spring. He wanted to focus on artistic expression in his humanities class, he says, and found that he had to cobble together the teaching materials from a variety of sources, mostly from the Internet.Skip to next paragraph
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One invaluable resource turned up in his own school – the mother of a student who had been on the street beneath the towers as they fell. She spoke to the class on Wednesday, he says, “and it was so much better than anything they could read or even watch on TV,” he says. “These kids are too young to remember much themselves, so this makes it very real for them.”
Many college students are also too young to recall much from Sept. 11, 2001, says Nico Slate, assistant professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “They have vague memories of it at best,” he says, pointing out that educators are now moving into an era of students for whom 9/11 must be taught as an historical rather than a current event.
Yet, he notes, the book is hardly closed on what it all means, with new information and events changing the historical narrative all the time.“It can be taught from so many perspectives,” says Mr. Slate. “This is both the challenge and the opportunity.”
IN PICTURES: 9/11 memorials around the world
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