9/11 Is History Now. Here's How American Kids Are Learning About It in ClassBreaking News
tags: terrorism, education, 9-11, recent history
Many teachers who remember what it was like to have been in school at that time use the memory to help their students connect to the topic. Hetrick, who chairs her school’s Social Studies department in Newville, Pa., shows her students the same Today show episode she watched that day. She also encourages them to listen to the stories of victims’ families and first responders recorded by StoryCorps, in hopes the personal recollections will make students more engaged “by seeing I’m truly invested in what we’re doing, seeing how much I’m caring about this, how emotional I get.”
When she first started teaching U.S. History in 2008, that lesson felt like déjà vu.
“I was teaching sophomores about my experience as a sophomore, and I would go home after that lesson and just break down,” she recalls. “I was having a hard time detaching. [Teachers] want to form a connection, but we also need to stay professional as historians and have that little bit of detachment. It’s definitely not easy to do.”
It’s not surprising that teaching 9/11 as history is a delicate task. In addition to the emotional burden that falls on teachers who remember that day, the subject matter is sensitive and the images and documents that might be used as primary sources are disturbing. The story is also very much still being written, as the effects of 9/11 on American society continue to evolve.
There is also no national guideline that states are required to follow in terms of teaching the topic, so lessons will vary depending on the teacher or school district. In New York, for example, schools will observe a moment of silence on Wednesday, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law on Monday requiring observation of the anniversary. A 2017 analysis of state high-school social-studies academic standards in the 50 states and the District of Columbia noted that 26 specifically mentioned the 9/11 attacks, nine mentioned terrorism or the war on terror, and 16 didn’t mention 9/11 or terrorism-related examples at all.