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Sept. 11 fuzzy for many students
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Today’s high school seniors were only second-graders a decade ago when two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, another hit the Pentagon, and a fourth crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania.
While most adults have watched the footage again and again, there’s no guarantee children have seen any video from the most tragic event on American soil in over 50 years. Most fourth-graders weren’t even born at the time.
“I’ve found most of students don’t know a lot about it,” said Rex Crabtree, a seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher at Centertown School. “The ones who do think of it as only happening in New York City. They don’t know anything about the other two planes.”
For the most part, Tennessee schools don’t emphasize teaching the events of Sept. 11, what led up to them, and the U.S. reaction. School districts, including Warren County, leave it up to each teacher to address the subject as they see fit, which can mean some students don’t hear about it at all.
“Most teachers cover it as they go through their curriculum at appropriate times like now,” said assistant director of schools Bobby Cox.
Sept. 11 will be addressed this year at West Elementary as kindergarten students have their pictures taken in front of the flag and have a discussion about heroes.
“We’ll be talking about firefighters and policemen and people in our community who take care of others,” said West principal Marsha Newman.
Sept. 11 is given scant mention in social studies textbooks. Crabtree says it’s briefly addressed in the back of the eighth-grade social studies book. It receives five paragraphs in the fifth-grade social studies book.
High school government teacher Darrell Austin says he plans to discuss Sept. 11 for about 10 or 15 minutes Monday.
“This was an attack on the U.S. and one of the very few times we’ve ever been attacked,” said Austin. “Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives and we have to remember that, but we also can’t live in fear. We can’t let Muslims or anyone else dictate our lifestyle.”
Austin said he plans to discuss when the attack was planned, why al-Qaida attacked us, and why we attacked Afghanistan. He says it’s a common misconception Iraq was associated with the Sept. 11 attack, which it wasn’t.
Overall, Austin said there is not enough class time to discuss Sept. 11 in detail.
“I don’t want to act like I make a big deal about it because I don’t,” said Austin. “There is so much pressure on us to teach our core subject, there isn’t much time as far as minor curriculum goes.”
Two years ago, New York City schools piloted what is believed to be the first comprehensive educational plan focusing on the attacks. Since then, schools in California, Alabama, Indiana, Illinois and Kansas have asked about implementing that plan or parts of it.
The Sept. 11 Education Trust has come out with lesson plans for teachers, but those programs have not become widely adopted.
“It’s a long process to get the program out there in the hands of teachers and making teachers feel equipped to handle it with students,” said Anthony Gardner, who founded the Sept. 11 Education Trust.