From time to time items of interest come to me via a Google Alert, “9/11 Commission.” Today, the alert surfaced an education-related article, “Remembering 9/11: Teachers evolve lesson to adapt to growing history,” Leslie Parrilla, San Bernadino (California) Sun. The target school audience in this case is 10th and 11th grade classes at Rancho Cucamonga High School, students who were preschoolers or younger on that eventful day.
9/11 in Transition
The article marks the transition of the events of 9/11 from a news event to an historical event. As Parrilla writes, “educators have transitioned teaching from the event as a shocking, traumatic, personal occurrence to a historical, social and cultural event. Each years class brings more detachment from the event to the point that in just a few years students exposed to the curriculum will have not yet been born.
The Commission Report
Teachers are now asking students to do their own literature searches and to begin asking about the “nitty gritty,” to search and learn in depth. At least one teacher is making assignments based on the 9/11 Commission Report.
“Government teacher William Reinhart at Verdugo Hills High School in the Tujunga area of Los Angeles said he continues to teach Sept. 11 as the evolving story that it is, from watching it unfold on television that day with students in his classroom, to making more detached generations connect dots by linking 9/11 to current airport restrictions and the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“That (history) didn’t exist in the year or two, three years after,” Reinhart said. “We as a nation were in the grieving process and there were orange alerts and red alerts and you could only bring liquids here or there and there were shoe bombers. We were kind of catching our breath. All the subsequent years after that it’s changed a little.”
Now Reinhart approaches instruction about that day through history and government, through counter-terrorism policy and the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. He hands out assignments about the 9/11 Commission report.
I substitute taught at Thomas Jefferson high school in Northern Virginia for two years in the early 1990’s. It was two years of pure enjoyment watching students being challenged to critique and create and responding to that challenge. I am confident that today’s high school (and college students) will be able to sort out fact from fiction as they deal with the events of 9/11 in historical perspective.
(Note: Thomas Jefferson is consistently the highest or among the highest rated high schools in the nation.)