An inscription details one of the flights that crashed on September 11, 2001, at the National September 11 Memorial in New York City. (Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
As the nation prepares to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, many teachers are struggling with how to teach about the disastrous events to students who might have a living memory of the events.
Many younger students, meanwhile, might not even realize the significance of the day itself.
“When young students watch the image of the two towers being attacked, they don’t understand if that’s happening now, if it’s happening many times over, or one time,” said Joan Brodsky Schur, a longtime member of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and author of We Are Living History: Reflections of a New York City Social Studies Teacher.
“I feel certain that a school with young children is going to do whatever memorializing they’re going to do in a respectful way towards the people who gave their lives, but also respect the needs of young children.”
Resources for teaching about 9-11
Today’s high school students “were between three and eight when the event happened, and while they probably do remember the day because the world sort of stopped in the U.S., they probably don’t have the emotional memory that adults have,” said Angus Carroll of Cengage, which has produced an in-depth brochure on teaching about 9-11. “In one way that’s good, because now we can look at it from a more factual standpoint.”
Carroll said Cengage’s focus has been on the events that 9-11 set in motion, rather than simply focusing on the day itself.
“We wanted to look at the effect 9-11 had on the nation 10 years after,” he added.
Brodsky Schur suggested linking 9-11 lessons to general social studies topics as a way to teach the event in context.