Sunday, September 11, 2011

I am not teaching 9-11 tomorrow

by Mike Kaechele

Today has been a reflective day for me. I have thought more about what that day felt like than I have since the actual day. The numbness, staring at the TV for hours and feeling like it was not real...

I will talk with 9th graders who were 4 or 5 years old at the time, about it a bit tomorrow. I am guessing they will have a few questions. But I will not teach about it.

My own son who was born less than a month after that awful day asked me why they did it. My wife said it was because they hate us. But that is not the real answer, not a complete answer. The next obvious question is why do people hate us? Many would bring up religion, power, and economics. These are all part of the answer but the truth is so much deeper.
by JasonePowell

The truth is that 9/11 is the result of a complicated story involving the United States, Europe, Israel, Russia, and the Middle East going back to World War II and before. It is a story of war, imperialism, greed, oil, hate, Cold War, and propaganda. There have been many innocent lives lost in this story, but there are no innocent nations.

And the story continues in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, and beyond. There have been many individual heroes and villains in this story, but the United States (unfortunately) is not the hero of this story but just another self-interested party. The story of 9/11 and the following wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is complex, messy, twisted, and historically based. It can not be summed up in a few words of a 5 minute YouTube video. What happened on September 11, 2001 was an incredible tragedy and I mourn with all of the families of victims this day.

I will never excuse or defend the actions of the terrorists on that day. But the terrorists did not act for no logical reason (at least from their perspective). It is important that we understand the background of this story and their reasons for attacking. Only then can we decide an appropriate response to that day.

Tomorrow will be the fifth day of school. My students are not ready for all of this. Most adults students have little background knowledge of the Middle East and the politics there. So I can't really teach about 9/11 tomorrow, but perhaps by the end of the year students can learn about it in its proper historical context and begin to try to make sense of it themselves...


  1. I just expressed these same sentiments to my husband earlier today. I feel inadequate for one. Even with the fact that I understand the complexity of the event. I feel like we are a bit too close to the situation. To wrapped in to really teach it in a way that will do it justice. Especially when I live in a state that is trying to re-write the period of history that many of these issues begin in (age of imperialism in Texas is no more....the appropriate terms are expansionism or exceptionalism). So how do I begin to get the young people to understand the complexity of the world in one day. I the end of the year, I will bring it up. But thanks for your post, because I will now address it in that way tomorrow.

  2. We are having a short prayer service first thing tomorrow (religious school). If they need to talk after, we will remember together. But that is it. I hope they were a community today with their families and friends. Even in my World Lit class, I wait until we are read portions of the Qu'ran, and then their (inevitable) surprise at the peace in the sacred text allows for some discussion of the myriad of issues and truths that resulted in the tragedy. Thanks for this post.

  3. There are too many lenses to see the event through: globalization, imperialism, terrorism, hatred, public memory, economics, transnationalism, etc. When kids come in with no background knowledge, the only place to go is the event itself: the sense of tragedy, the human loss, the confusion, the anger, the hurt. It has to be a story to be explained before an event to be analyzed. The analysis needs to happen, but not on 9/11.

  4. I know that I am a little late in terms of the date; however, I really felt the need to respond to this blog. 9/11 of course is a sensitive topic for most. I chose to have my students reflect on what they remembered from that day. I guided the discussion by asking questions such as How old were you? What grade were you in at the time? What were you doing on that day? What were your parents responses? How does this event affect your life now? (We discussed this one in detail) We took a brief look at the Patriot Act and what it meant for American citizens. We discussed changes in national security, (airports, bus stations, train stations, borders, ports, etc...) Racial Profiling, (this discussion certainly opened up the eyes of my students. They did not realize how much they actually knew about the term itself). Nevertheless, to go into the historical context about why the United States came under attack would take more than just one ninety period to discuss. There are multiple contexts to consider when looking at the events in a historical perspective. Politics, Economics, Religion, Geopolitics, Social Media, globalization, nationalism, etc.. Our class discussion was enlightening. I had my kids write a reflective journal about the discussion that occurred in class. Their responses were simply phenomenal. I was impressed with the level of writing and commitment that my students demonstrated to this task. It showed me that they genuinely care about the events of 9/11. The end of the school year would be an idea for me as well to go into more depth with aforementioned topics above regarding the events of 9/11. My students would have to basic knowledge to retrieve from their long term memory and understand the topic of discussion.


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