How To Teach 9/11 To The Next Generation Of Students

“To them, it’s history, just like Pearl Harbor”

For many Americans, the shock, horror, and terror of September 11 feels fresh. And for years, it’s been “taught as a current event, meaning teachers broach the topic late in the school year, and if they fall behind on their lesson sequence, sometimes they don't get to it,” according to US News & World Report.

But for the class of 2020—today’s high school freshmen, all of them born after 9/11—the attacks are history. Yet in the last 15 years, no national historical curriculum has been developed on the topic. There are no standards, no rubrics, no formal lesson plans developed for teachers to rely on.

As with many historical events, educators have struggled not with how to teach the facts of 9/11, but rather the emotions surrounding it, as well as the intricate causes and effects of an event that impacted every American life—and in many ways still does.

Chris Causey, a middle school teacher from Tennessee, told USA Today via email:

“To them, it’s history, just like Pearl Harbor… I personally cannot think of any other event in American history that has had more of an impact on how everyday Americans live their life. It has had a profound impact on my life; therefore, I believe it to be my duty as an educator to never stop teaching the shock, horror, sadness and utter disbelief of that day.”

Causey is just one of many educators working to formulate exemplary teaching models.

In Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed, school districts have been considering how to implement respectful, honest 9/11 teachings in an age-appropriate way since 2001. Between kindegarten and the third grade, students participate in 9/11 commemorations and school-wide moments of silence.

Starting in the fourth grade, students within the Abington, Pennsylvania school district learn from a curriculum inspired by the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, located at the World Trade Center site in New York City. By high school, students are introduced to more complicated concepts, including religious extremism, Afghani culture, and tolerance.

At Stratford High School in Tennessee, older students learn about the efforts of New York’s brave firefighters by conducting mock rescues of their own. In New Jersey, USA Today reports that some elementary school teachers expose their third graders to K9 rescue teams while twelfth graders learn about prisoner interrogation methods.

Colleen Tambuscio, a teacher at New Milford High School in New Jersey, is looking for more than one-off attempts at 9/11 lessons, instead arguing for comprehensive reform. In an interview with Asbury Park Press, Tambuscio said it well:

“It takes a talented teacher who is really dedicated and committed to students to make this work well. This is not a math lesson on percents and we’re going to do it and you’re going to have a test. This requires a different level of treatment. You teach history not to just recite facts, but to give it some kind of meaning.”

Though Tambuscio helped formulate the 9/11 curriculum currently taught in New Jersey schools, there’s still much work to be done in her home state and in the rest of the country. Luckily, committed educators like her are coming together to find a way to approach the events of 9/11 with sensitivity in the classroom.

Image via Prameet Kumar

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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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