- We Must Teach the Worst of our History; Not Glorify It - August 14, 2017
- Transgender Student Rights are Human Rights - February 23, 2017
- Why “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Still Matters in 2017 - January 16, 2017
- No Right to an Education: Detroit Schools and the Secretary of Education Nominee - November 29, 2016
- I Think I Failed You – A Civics Teacher’s Letter to her Former Students - November 16, 2016
- Transforming the ‘Trump Effect’ in Schools - October 27, 2016
- Implicit Bias: The Missed Post-Debate Discussion - October 4, 2016
- 15 Years after 9/11: Days of Infamy & Memory as History - September 12, 2016
- Teaching Civil Discourse in Toxic Political Times - August 5, 2016
- Teaching in a Time of Coercion - April 6, 2016
This week was the 15th Anniversary of 9/11. It has been filled with people remembering where they were and what they saw on September 11, 2001. This ritual will most likely repeat itself for many more years to come. There is finally a memorial and a place where the event is commemorated in New York City – the footprints of the two World Trade Center Towers are stunning in their simplicity.
My son is now 14 years old. He has no memories of September 11 and knows only the detachment of stories adults tell him of the Infamous Day. He attended more anti-war marches than he was years old by the time he was six – his young life was surrounded by war. His uncle (my little brother) was deployed 5 different times before my son turned 9 years old.
My son – and all our young students have never known a world where “terrorism” wasn’t an every day word. They have had conversations about parts of the world, religions, terrorist attacks and other ideas that I cannot recall even knowing about when I was 14. Like every American of their generation, their world is colored by an event they never experienced.
Our students are growing up in a world forever dented by that day. Their every day lives are less private and in their world, valuing privacy is a thing of past generations. Even my former students, who are now in their early 20s, do not have a clear memory of it themselves; only the fear that was beamed down upon them by the adults in their lives. Some had what I would call incredibly callous school officials who allowed the event to be shown on the school televisions to the very young children who could not possibly understand what was happening. But even to these young people, that day 15 years ago is stuff of history and myth and legend. Unless they are exposed to the “as it happened” footage, they often don’t even realize that there were multiple points of attack or the misinformation that swirled around that day–or just the utter shock the entire nation experienced together as it happened.
Teaching September 11, 2001 as “history” to my high school students reminds me of how even our most traumatic experiences eventually retire to the annals of story and history class. It is tempting to demand that everyone remember the awfulness, to keep alive our collective experience of it, our overwhelming grief of it – to not feel so alone in a world torn apart by the mystifying enemy of “terror.” And that is what we still do. Every September 11 is a litany of stories, a list of remembrances, a moment of silence to remember our beloved who perished in a calamity on a scale which we can still barely wrap our minds around. And that is okay, because for us, it’s not history – it only just happened, it still hurts.Even our most traumatic experiences eventually retire to the annals of story and history class. Click To Tweet
But while we still hurt, our students grow up in the shadow of that hurt. Today, I am thinking that how we remember our own pain pales in comparison to how we raise our kids and teach our students in a world now shaped by that very pain.