September 8, 2011

Teaching September 11th

Patrick Laverty

In the Valley Breeze today, I was happy to read that the Lincoln Middle and High Schools will be teaching the events of September 11, 2001 to the students. The part that disappointed me a bit was that they will be talking about it with the students, for the first time.

"[LHS Principal Kevin] McNamara said that LHS has not done anything like this in the past, but he decided to for this milestone year. "With the 10-year anniversary, it has refocused everyone on the importance of memorializing the event," McNamara said."

I remember after it happening, wondering how schools were going to teach this. When I was in school, we learned about D-Day, we learned about Pearl Harbor, we also talked about the Vietnam conflict. So how would schools teach about what happened on that perfectly clear Tuesday morning ten years ago now. Apparently, the answer is they don't. They don't want to talk about the gruesomeness of it, they don't want to talk about the fear of flying a commercial airplane or being in a tall building and wondering if anything will happen to it. They don't want to scare the children.

I did some more searching on how the subject is taught in schools and why it isn't taught in many places and found this one explanation:

"With no standard curriculum in place, teachers across the country have been forced to develop their own methods to talk about the traumatic events of the past decade in the classroom. Many have turned to privately created lesson plans"

"forced to develop their own methods"? Isn't that what they do? Teachers are professionals and in their training, they learn how to develop a lesson plan in their subject area. I'm not sure why teachers can develop a plan for how to teach this part of history in the same ways that they develop lessons to teach algebra, diagramming sentences or the FDR presidency. When these things aren't taught, a very important part of our history is lost on the students, even to the point where people from their mid-twenties on up might want to bang their head in frustration.
Back in May, the Yahoo search blog wrote:

However, it seems teens ages 13-17 were seeking more information as they made up 66% of searches for “who is osama bin laden?”

That just shouldn't even be possible. Our schools should be spending more than a day or two on the subject. This is a topic that could go for an entire semester or even an entire year, so to talk about it in the schools for just a day or two around the anniversary of the attacks doesn't do the history justice. The Middle East and the US' involvement is something that will probably be a topic of discussion for the entire lives of today's students. To not even talk about it in schools is irresponsible.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I recall no lack of education about Vietnam, when I was a student, or about continuing disputes with the USSR.

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 8, 2011 11:12 AM

Gee, I thought that these things should be talked about around the dinner table! Oh yeah, there is no dinner table time anymore.

I agree that some time should be taken to review the historical event and how it has changed our nation and world, but not so much that it pushes out other critical educational coursework in the basics like math, science, spelling, grammer, etc.

And, by the way, once it becomes part of the curriculum, you will have to contend with those who will tell you that your version is just a theory and equal time should be given to the "government conspiracy" theory!!!!!

Posted by: John at September 8, 2011 12:01 PM

"other critical educational coursework in the basics like math, science, spelling, grammer"

Agreed completely, we need to work on all of those things!

Posted by: Pete at September 8, 2011 12:10 PM

The subject being taught is usually just a motive to get mathematics, civics, culture, and grammar taught; at least that's what I've seen work best in classrooms.

We had a whole year (eighth grade) where all the classes were centered around Vietnam. History was about the American Revolution, with the teacher drawing lines between Vietnam, 1776, and other wars where world powers were proxying via armed rebellions. English class had a lot of papers written about the social upheaval back here in the 1960s, and works that derived from it. Music class reinforced it by covering 'folk and rock of the '60s'. Civics class covered US politics and economics of war during the same period, we actually read excerpts from The Pentagon Papers and newspaper archives.

You could do the same thing today, but center around the shift from the cold war to concerns about Islamic Extremism. It's a subject that could really be delved-into objectively in the same way that I was taught about Vietnam.

Posted by: mangeek at September 8, 2011 12:52 PM

You are correct Pat. Well done. I dont understand (well actually I do) where the problem lies. Using just the facts seems like a good start. What they're afraid of is causing (in their minds) fear and hatred of the muslim religion. This is just another example of how political correctness is ruining our society. It stops people from telling the truth and saying what needs to be said. Seeing a lot of teachers are liberals they dont want to get into that. They'd rather promote transgender acceptance then tell what happened on 9/11/01. Just a sad fact. The aclu who has done everything in their power the last 20 years to have God removed from schools, and goverment, has just won a lawsuit in Texas (I'm prety sure that's where it was) to allow muslim kids to pray in the cafiteria on friday afternoons. Another example of pc gone awry. Good job on your blog!

Posted by: slicwily at September 8, 2011 1:32 PM

"done everything in their power the last 20 years to have God removed from schools... to allow muslim kids to pray in the cafiteria on friday afternoons"

They would fight just as hard to allow Christians to pray as well but NOT if it's being run, endorsed, or administered by the school itself. I hope you see the difference:

Banner on the wall talking about 'heavenly fathers' - That's endorsement.
Letting people pray on their own time while at school - Not endorsement.
Faculty or staff leading the school or students in a prayer that invokes God - Endorsement.

Get it?

Posted by: mangeek at September 8, 2011 1:44 PM
"forced to develop their own methods"? Isn't that what they do?

Welcome to the wonderful world of highstakes standardized testing and top-down education "reform".

Posted by: Russ at September 8, 2011 1:56 PM

Russ, I'm with you on the administrations taking the "art" out of teaching. Let teachers teach. But the problem with it is that we can't let the good teachers teach and make the bad teachers sell insurance. If there was a way to get rid of the bad teachers and only keep the good ones, there would be very little need for standardized testing and curricula.
With a standardized curriculum, anyone can teach. It's a matter of following a recipe instead of letting the teacher figure it out with creativity. I'm opposed to that.

Posted by: Patrick at September 8, 2011 2:18 PM

"With a standardized curriculum, anyone can teach."

Which is why the elite in this state spend tens of thousands to send their kids to private schools? Even if that were true, the question is at what cost to the students? This seemed to me a perfect example of what we have lost in the name of "reform."

"If there was a way to get rid of the bad teachers and only keep the good ones, there would be very little need for standardized testing and curricula."

Unfortunately, test results aren't an effective way of determining which teachers are the good ones and which aren't, so for lack of a better method we'll simply pretend that they are effective with predictable results.

Posted by: Russ at September 8, 2011 2:50 PM

"test results aren't an effective way of determining which teachers are the good ones and which aren't"

As the *only* way, I agree. I think test results can be a piece of the puzzle and not even a majority of it.

I have friends and family who are school teachers and I ask them lots of questions to get their views on this stuff. They all feel the same way about standardized testing, but one thing that's interesting is that I do ask them if they know who the good teachers are and who the bad teachers are, they all say "oh yeah". So if they know, how do they know? And if they know, can't the administration know that too? There probably aren't too many professions where the workers can't tell who the slackers and underperformers are and I don't think teaching is any different from that.

Posted by: Patrick at September 8, 2011 3:07 PM

My father has been a school administrator in charge of teacher hiring and evaluations for a number of years. I'd never claim to speak for him, but he's told me a number of times that any decent administrator knows exactly who the good and bad teachers are and that it's not very difficult. In class observations, peer feedback, student feedback, parent feedback, teacher meetings, etc. He impressed upon me early that supervisors hear a lot more than workers think they do. It's just like any other job - some people are naturally much better at it than others. Tenure isn't a ridiculous concept, but it should be 5 years at the absolute minimum. Prevents administration shenanigans but gives them ample time to see who's really good or not (the first two years are a learning curve). Union/progressive claims that teachers can't and shouldn't be evaluated are corrupt nonsense.

Posted by: Dan at September 8, 2011 3:27 PM

"Tenure isn't a ridiculous concept, but it should be 5 years at the absolute minimum. Prevents administration shenanigans"

I disagree. What prevents 'administration shenanigans' in non-tenured professions? The original point to tenure was to let college professors research and teach on a wide variety of subjects. A teacher could talk about why socialism is necessary for this country and how it's a great thing that works and a very conservative school administration would have an extremely difficult time firing that professor for those views. That is one of the points of college is to have many varying viewpoints available for discussion.
I don't quite see the same need at the elementary school level. Especially now that we have standardized curriculum. There's no art left to it anymore. There really isn't a reason for tenure.

Posted by: Patrick at September 8, 2011 3:44 PM

"What prevents 'administration shenanigans' in non-tenured professions?"

Nothing, hence the shenanigans we see all around us. I don't want little Billy's teacher fired because the principal is schtupping a bimbo who just got a teaching certificate. That stuff happens without rigorous rules.

Posted by: mangeek at September 8, 2011 4:04 PM

I'm not necessarily in favor of tenure, and I certainly wouldn't want it in a private school. The only reason I don't immediately dismiss it in this instance is because of the fundamentally corruptible nature of local public institutions like schools and police and fire departments. I could envision a horror story of nepotism and patronage run amuck, particularly in corrupt, Democratic RI. Another good argument for a voucher system instead of the socialized region-based monstrosity we have today. The huge problem is with teachers getting tenure after 2 or 3 years in many states. Before you even know if these people are good or not, they're untouchable and can't ever be fired. Only the unions could support a totally unaccountable system like that. School choice inherently solves a lot of these problems.

Posted by: Dan at September 8, 2011 4:09 PM

Its more simple than any theory presented so far. We just don't talk about. Sure, maybe around the water cooler or at the bar having a few but when bad things happen, parents and teachers clam up when it comes to the kids. Its too difficult to explain why someone would intentionally fly a plane into a building killing thousands of people. Its just easier not to talk about it. That's what parents and teachers do these days.

Posted by: Max Diesel at September 8, 2011 4:20 PM

On the subject of test scores and teacher evaluation: At least from my point of view, standardized testing is so much to determine which teachers are good and which are bad as to emphasize the point that education in America is floundering.

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 8, 2011 7:39 PM

"Its too difficult to explain why someone would intentionally fly a plane into a building killing thousands of people."

I guess what I'm saying is that you shouldn't 'teach 9/11' as an isolated incident, but as part of either Modern American History or a Social Studies unit that covers the Middle East and/or Islam.

'Teaching 9/11' can just go wrong in so many ways, and if it's not part of a wider picture, it's just going to fester in their little impressionable minds and distract from whatever it is they are supposed to be learning.

As far as tenure and evaluations, I think we have the technology to be able to determine which teachers turn out kids who leave the classroom scoring better or at least the same as when they came in consistently. Those are the only ones that should be awarded 'seniority points' and 'step ups'. Let the starting pay of $35k or so and the lack of seniority be the stick that drives bad teachers from staying in the career.

Posted by: mangeek at September 8, 2011 8:16 PM

You say that local public institutions like schools and police and fire departments are "fundamentally corruptible". Are you saying that private institutions, private police and private fire departments are somehow fundamentally incorruptible? If you are, on what do you base this statement? If you are not, then your statement is unfounded assertion, no more than "public, bad; private, good".

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at September 8, 2011 9:35 PM

I am wondering if part of the reason public schools have a difficulty teaching about 9/11 has to do with the religious aspects of the subject matter.

If you can't talk about religion, how do you begin to talk about an attack that was (at least for the attackers themselves) religiously motivated?

Posted by: Bucket Chick at September 8, 2011 10:18 PM

Private policing and corrections are bad ideas.Period.It has nothing to do with public employee unions-it has to do with not privatizing the enforcement of public laws.
Sanitation and firefighting are different.
In cases where people are subject to control by others,oversight should be governmental,and not by extension,but in a direct chain of command setting.

Posted by: joe bernstein at September 8, 2011 11:10 PM

PT, you can talk about religion until the cows come home in public schools. You can teach units that study and investigate it. What you can't do is endorse a particular religion or religion as a whole.

I really don't understand how so many people have the idea that there's some sort of war on religion going on in the public schools. Most public shill teachers I know are pretty devout, it's what keeps them going to work amongst the hordes of decrepitude they deal with every day.

That said, you would be hard-pressed to find a public school teaching these units, but that's because it doesn't serve any of the basic rubrics by which 'success' is measured, and there's an overarching fear of litigation (even if unsuccessful) in most mid-to-large sized operations, both public and private.

Posted by: mangeek at September 9, 2011 12:44 AM

OTL - Corrupt private businesses lose money and shut down (absent government support).

Posted by: Dan at September 9, 2011 8:09 AM

OTL - Read your comment quickly this morning and didn't see you mentioned private fire/police specifically. I never said all services should be privatized, although most security is already private in the US and works well. Even the Federal government uses private security. I support public police, but not the victimless crimes they enforce, which is where most of the corruption comes from. Fire could easily be private in 2011. Schools should absolutely be private, there is no legitimate argument in favor of full socialization there (although public funding for the poorest students is debatable).

The key word was corruptible, not corrupt. Really I was just arguing for transparency and certain good government protections.

Posted by: Dan at September 9, 2011 8:44 AM

Heh, mangeek, I freely admit my ignorance about teaching religion in public schools! I went all through catholic school, and (wherever I picked up the idea) thought that as a separation of church and state issue, public schools had to avoid it as a topic.

I would think it would be a tough subject to tackle though, since religious institutions themselves and religious people in general would be very sensitive as to how their particular group was portrayed.

Posted by: Bucket Chick at September 11, 2011 5:48 PM

I actually have a friend who works in the field of teaching about religion (Judaism, in his case) in public schools. Here's a neat guide they put out:

Posted by: mangeek at September 12, 2011 8:22 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.