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Mon February 13, 2012
Teaching 9/11Ten Years Later
Boise ID – Students in history and government classes are often asked to discuss some of the worst events the world has seen. September 11th is no exception. Ten years later students and teachers in Idaho schools try to make sense of 9/11 in their classrooms. Adam Cotterell introduces us to one teacher whose lesson is all about that.
Carley Hill was 19 years old on September 11th 2001.
Carley Hill “It was big turning point. I mean life was completely different after that.”
Hill was a freshman at the College of Idaho. She remembers watching the twin towers fall on TV. She says she decided that day she would leave school and join the military.
Carley Hill “I was getting ready to go into the recruiter’s office. I called my dad right before I did it, and he had served in Vietnam, he was a marine and he said, I served this country so you didn’t have to.”
Her father talked her out of enlisting, so she became a teacher. She teaches U.S. history and government at Boise’s Timberline High. Her history curriculum, she says ends with the presidency of the first George Bush. So Hill doesn’t give a lesson every year about 9/11. But it comes up.
Carley Hill “When we talk about the Boston Tea Party, would the British view that as a terrorist act? And then we talk about 9/11. Or when Abraham Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus, is that similar to the patriot act?”
Hill says September 11th comes up even more in her government classes. She says her classes can’t get away from it. Nearly every topic of contemporary government seems to lead back to that day. The debt ceiling debate equals cuts to military spending equals the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan equals 9/11. But today is different. For the first time her classes are all about what happened ten years ago.
Carley Hill “OK let’s talk about… where were you, what, what do you remember from that day?
This is American Government, sixth period.
CarleyHill “What do you remember? Chanel, go ahead.”
Chanel “I remember walking into my school and um, like seeing teachers crying and like embracing each other.”
These students are seniors. In September of 2001 they were starting second grade.
Carley Hill “Go ahead Austin.”
Austin “I was lying on the couch watching Digimon. And it cut away like one of those like we interrupt this broadcast for breaking news. And I was really upset because I liked that show a lot.”
Carley Hill “Katie go ahead.”
Katie “We were at school and first no one told us what was happening, they just sent us home. And my friend and I were so excited, we were like, yeah we get to go home. I remember like skipping home and jumping over cracks, so you know, don’t break your mom’s back and stuff like that. And just like being so happy that we were going home. And then when I got home my mom was crying and I didn’t know what was going on and no one told me until I saw the news.”
Most of the these student’s memories feature emotional adults. They tell Hill some of their teachers tried to pretend nothing had happened. Some teachers turned on the TV and tried to explain it. An art teacher said don’t be scared. A dad said remember this day because history will. Carley Hill takes the discussion beyond remembrances. The class talks about when they first understood what had happened. They talk about how September 11th has changed their community and the nation. Then Hill asks this.
Carley Hill “How should we educate future generations about 9/11?”
Some answer that showing videos are the most powerful way. The students draw parallels to how they are taught other dramatic events. They go back and forth comparing and contrasting 9/11 to Pearl Harbor. Then a young man named Cooper chimes in.
Cooper “The thing about Pearl Harbor is none of us really remember it. Cause none of us were alive, first of all, so like when you think about Pearl Harbor you’re not like Oh my God, such a tragic day, so emotional so sad. It is really sad and it probably should be taught and understood by like students but we should take it in stride just like we did with Pearl Harbor.”
Cooper says in ten years students will see 9/11 as ancient history. His classmate Kayden says many already do.
Kayden “It kind of just like happened like a, you know another historical event so I kind of just like put it in the past like every other event that happened in history.”
Hill isn’t surprised by this. She’s noticed a certain attitude for a few years when 9/11 comes up in her history and government classes.
Carley Hill “It just doesn’t seem like there’s the emotional attachment to it. It’s just kind of like, yeah it happened.”
But Hill doesn’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.
Carley Hill “I remember the news talking about how these kids are going to be affected forever and it’s going to be like a cloud over their head, they’re going to be fearful. But, they’re, they’re not. Their life moves on.”
But she says that doesn’t mean her students aren’t impacted by the events of September 11th 2001 and the aftermath. Hill says an example is that one of her students is going straight into the military after graduation. She says another five are seriously considering it.