NPR: Teaching Sept. 11 to Students Born After the Attacks

September 11, 2017

Fresh perspective on 9/11 from NPR news. Read the excerpt below. Go to NPR for the original article

“‘Never forget’ became a national rallying cry after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Yet America’s schools — where collective memory is shaped — are now full of students who never knew because they weren’t alive then. Many teachers now struggle with whether and how to teach the attacks and their aftermath.

According to one survey, only about 20 states include anything in depth about the events of that fateful day in their high school social studies curriculum.

And when they are taught, critics say, it’s often through a narrow lens.

Ask students born after 2001 what they know about the attacks, and many admit they have big knowledge gaps — gaps that they also want filled in.

‘It was a really big part of other people’s lives. I wasn’t born then,’ says Kaylah Eggsware, a seventh-grader at Greenfield Middle School in Greenfield, Mass. ‘I don’t know about it, so I don’t know how to feel about it.’

‘I’d like to know exactly, like, everything that happened. Because I don’t know exactly how many planes there were,’ says Josh Sylvester, also a seventh-grader at Greenfield Middle School. ‘I know the two twin towers fell. But I don’t know if anything else happened.’

Like a lot of middle schools, Greenfield taught little about that day, and none of the ‘anything else.’ Often, the school would observe a moment of silence at anniversary time and follow with a brief class discussion.

‘We have never really tackled the issue before,’ says Greenfield Principal Gary Tashjian.

But that’s changing. This school year, Greenfield students, as well as their teachers and administrators, are being asked to read and discuss a new young adult novel called Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes.

The protagonist is a resilient New York City fifth-grader named Dèja. In her new school, the towers were once visible from her classroom. Her family has hit hard times: Her father suffers a host of physical and mental problems related to the attacks. After the family gets evicted, it moves into a homeless shelter.

Dèja knows the attacks have cast a shadow over her life, but she doesn’t know much about them. So she and her friends set out to discover more.

Tashjian hopes the all-school read sparks discussion, debate and further inquiry among students.”

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