Teaching 9/11 to Gen. Z Poses a Challenge

By Emily Weikl

It was a Tuesday in the second week of Sept. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. That day ended in smoke, ash, and thousands of lives lost.

Everyone old enough at the time remembers the events of 9/11. They know where they were or what they were doing when they heard about a plane crashing into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, then another hitting the South Tower shortly after. Then one hitting the Pentagon. Then another plane crashing in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

It has been 15 years, but the memories of that day remain. It’s unforgettable for those who lived through it.

For the first time, many incoming high school freshman were not alive at the time of the attacks. 9/11 will be taught as a history lesson and referenced in courses about current events.

Teaching it will be no easy feat, since those same teachers remember the tragedy well. Those facts should come into serious consideration when the time comes for it to be taught in history classes for future generations.

It is likely that students will have family that were affected by the attack. Schools in regions most directly effected by the attack should take that into account that when the time comes, they should begin teaching the events of 9/11 in a classroom. The feelings of people effected by the attack should be considered.

Teachers should exercise caution when discussing the perpetrators, who were identified as Islamic extremists. In a Washington Post and ABC News Poll taken in 2010, 31 percent of respondents said that conventional Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims among those who practice it. Educators should strive to remove this stigma.

A full scale attack in Paris, a mass shooting in Orlando and now a bombing in New York City has only exacerbated the problem despite knowledge of ties to a terrorist organization. Ultimately, a clear distinction should be made between Islam and terrorist organizations when teaching about 9/11.

To quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Dec. 7, 1941 is a date which will live in infamy.” Perhaps the same can be said of 9/11.

Both were aerial attacks that occurred in the early morning hours and killed thousands. Each also prompted the US to deploy military forces and brought people together.

The number people alive today that have memories of Pearl Harbor are those who are in their eighties or older. Some day that will be people who lived through 9/11.

It is important to have firsthand accounts cataloged for future generations. Instead of teaching 9/11 objectively, first hand accounts should be shared to give students a better sense of the tragedy.

The teaching of 9/11 should be to both inform and affirm. To inform new generations so they don’t live in ignorance, and affirm that despite the immeasurable loss we came together as a nation.  Because the attack was both violent and devastating, it shouldn’t be taught in the early years of a student’s education.

At the end of the day it is a school district’s call on how they should teach 9/11. They should keep this in mind above all: new generations don’t have any personal memories of the day. What is taught can affect how they view 9/11 for the rest of their lives.