Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lesson Planning

In case you haven't heard, tomorrow is the five year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Social Studies teachers in my school district are required to highlight this anniversary in our Monday classes, which we were told on Thursday. A reasonable expectation, but one that turns out to be not nearly as easy as it sounds (and one of which we would have appreciated a bit more advance notice).

Like most people, I find it difficult to think or talk about 9/11 without thinking and talking about all the shit that's come after 9/11 -- specifically the way BushCo has used 9/11 to its own political ends, doggedly promoting the damaging mentality that "either you are with us or you are with the terrorists," dismantling our constitutional rights, and leading us into a quaqmire of a war that has absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and that is certainly not making us safer from terrorism.

I've spent lots of classroom time over the last five years addressing issues related to 9/11. It's never easy -- and always controversial -- to discuss 9/11 with high school students whose opinions often mirror those of their parents and who tend to think that asking them examine their existing beliefs (whatever they may be) is an attempt to impose your beliefs on them. Despite this difficulty, I think I have a pretty good handle on how to deal with 9/11 in the classroom.

That being said, I'm at a complete loss as to how to deal with 9/11 in the classroom ON 9/11. In the first few years after the attacks, I used to have a class discussion about heroes, which worked well. But we're way too far gone for that innocent discussion and our collective perception of 9/11 is far too clouded by BushCo's successful attempt to neatly divide us into freedom-lovers and terrorist-lovers.

My initial plan for this year had been to show clips from a PBS documentary called The Road to 9/11, which traces the roots of terrorism and religious fanaticism in the Middle East. And I definitely WILL do that at some point during the year (like maybe during my unit on religious fundamentalism, wherein I also discuss Pat Robertson and Warren Jeffs), but not tomorrow. Because I'm not sure that exploring the mentalities of those who murdered 3000 people five years ago is a particulary good way of honoring the memories of those 3000 people.

Should we really be doing anything tomorrow except remembering -- in some non-political way -- those who died in the 9/11 attacks? And why, after only five years, is it so hard for us (myself included) to put politics aside for one day and find a meaningful way of remembering?

20 comments:

Phil said...

I was thinking about this same thing today. I didn't come up with a good answer. My kids are to young to need it explained to them. That's a few years away. The only thing I could come up with was. Sit down and read the 9/11 commission report. This time I'd try to only focus on the actions and stories of what people did to help one another. Maybe the one good thing that has ever come from 9/11. The example set by the people who ran to, and not away from, the disasters. Trying to help without thinking of themselves. Rereading this idea it sounds the same as when you discuss heroes with them. Maybe that is the only way to depoliticize it. But I'm not sure if it needs to be innocent. High schoolers should know, when it hits the fan, your neighbors, coworkers and classmates are gonna be there to help. Not the federal government for damn sure.

Phil said...

p.s. Good luck with that.

Megan said...

Thanks. I'm afraid if I do something like that I'll spend all day crying. Actually, I KNOW I'l spend all day crying. I'm working on something related to the iconography of the towers and the difficulty we run into when trying to memorialize a human loss that great.

Is it cool if I add you to my blogroll? Despite your beef with my brother (or vice versa)? He, by the way, has apologized on his blog and deleted his mean post about your panties. Don't know if you saw that.

Phil said...

I did see that and thanks again for helping maintain the peace.

God! That is like, so wierd. I was gonna ask you if I could list your link too.

That would be cool. May I list you?

What do you find the majority of kids thinking to be? If that thinking reflects their parents views, what are they thinking? What subject do you teach?

Megan said...

Oh, I'm all about some peace! :) And yes, by all means, list away.

I teach Human Geography (basically cultural geography, not countries and capitals). The kids are pretty evenly divided, I'd say. The interesting thing is that at 15, the boys tend to be a lot less willing than the girls to challenge their assumptions. Changing their mind is perceived as being wussy, I guess.

Phil said...

I'd say that's analogous to this administation. A bunch of 15 year-old boys unwilling to change their minds. Acting tough and talking big.

Human Geography huh? You ever heard of the book Gun's, Germ's and Steel?

Anonymous said...

I write the words to the poem Fire and Ice by Robert Frost on my chalk board and have them do a free write about anything the poem brings up...Then we talk aobut the metaphors that Frost is using and then I mention that it is 9-11 and why do they think I want to talk about this poem today.....

I've done the same lesson for the past 4 years and it has always gone over well. But I teach English, so I am not sure that will help.

Guns Germs and Steel is a great book.

Lulu said...

That last comment was me.....I really find this whole beta thing annoying!

Oh well, I'm sure they'll work the kinks out of it eventually.

Megan said...

Phil: Of course. I use it in class. Well, actually I use the movie.

Anon/Lu: Great idea! Maybe I'll work that into my warm-up. Sorry about the beta annoyances. Just click "other"!

Lulu said...

I did click "other" I think. I'm still a little hung over....

Maritza said...

How about letting the kids lead the discussion and see where it goes? Ask them an open ended question, even one as simple and kind of hokey as, "What does September 11th mean to you?" I'm sure they have questions that they still don't have a satisfactory answer. Whatever you come up with, I'm sure you'll get some interesting opinions and thoughts.

Coaster Punchman said...

I have no answers to your questions. Frankly, I am a bit annoyed by all the media hype about this 5th anniversary business (although I am taking part in a small way on my blog.) I don't know what about it annoys me - I think I'm distrustful of the motivations behind the hype.

Anyway, regarding something you wrote in reference to our esteemed president: "either you are with us or you are with the terrorists" - my only hope is that Bush take my advice and go fuck himself.

CP

Brian said...

Hmm, a required 9/11 class?

Sounds like a great chance to beat those drums of freedom!

Ooh, you could wear the flag to school (make sure it covers all your parts though). And THEN beat the freedom drums! You would be the freedom-lovingest gal there!

Have a full minute (or however long it will take you to regain composure over this mess) of silence and then move on. That's all you can do, really.

Teaching kids anything other than the truth about 9/11 and this fucking administration is to not do right by them.

Megan said...

Maritza: I'm usually all about the open-ended questions, but I'm afraid of spending all day debating the merits of putting a boot up bin Laden's ass. I think I'll ask them your question at the end of class though.

CP: I have that same picture of the twin towers in my powerpoint for tomorrow! I liked the light/beacon imagery. And obviously you are with the terrorists. Not to mention that Bush takes advice only from his lord and savior Jesus Christ. Or Karl Rove. I can never tell which.

Meaghan said...

Here's the thing: your real challenge, make sure that these kids get it, without turning towards the same notions as those who did this: kill the enemy.

lulu said...

O wouldn't leave a lot of time for unguided discussion, at least not with my kids, because at least 1/2 of them will have no opinion, and another quarter will say that it was soooooo long ago and no one really cares anymore.

Brian said...

Of course! A freedom line dance, it makes perfect sense.

You could bring some Freedom Fries to school with you, offer Freedom Knuckle Sandwiches to anyone suspected of thinking for themselves, erect a shrine to Toby Keith and declare that 'boot in your ass song' the new National Anthem (if they didn't do that already), and remind everyone that the Constitution was written by a bunch of terrorists who hated freedom.

Megan said...

Meaghan: That is my whole mission in life, girl. :)

Lulu: And the leftover quarter will get so fired up about their own opinions that a discussion will be pointless.

Brian: I'm saving that for my federally-mandated lesson on the Constitution on September 18th, which is Constitution Day.

Grant Miller said...

I suppose it's easier when 9/11 falls on a weekend.

Megan said...

Yes, as it has for the last two years. Too bad Constitution Day never falls on a weekend. Although I could talk about the Constitution all the live long day.