A new 9/11 Curriculum?

| September 9, 2009 | 2 Replies

The Associated Press is reporting that there is a new curriculum debuting in 7 states this year with the goal of teaching middle-school and high-school students about the September 11th, 2001 attacks.  Developed by the September 11th Education Trust, the curriculum will focus on 7 areas “designed to help students reflect on the impact and legacy of September 11, 2001″.  Sample units include:

  • Understanding 9/11 as history
  • Debating the government’s role during disasters
  • Discussing the nature of heroism
  • Evaluating foreign policy vis-à-vis national security

The Associated Press quotes former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani:

“This is one of the critical subjects on which young people should develop some ideas and thoughts. They’re going to have to live with this for quite some time,” he said. “It gives young people a framework in which to think about Sept. 11, all that it meant and all that it means to the present.”

I’m not quite sure what he means when he says that “They’re going to have to live with this for quite some time.”  Does he mean the threat of terrorism?  Does he mean the consequences of our reaction to 9/11?

Rural school girl, San Augustine County, Texas- via Flickr (Commons)

Rural school girl, San Augustine County, Texas- via Flickr (Commons)

In any case, I’m uncomfortable with this curriculum.  I’ve taken a brief look at some of the materials that make up the curriculum, and as far as it goes, it appears to be a pretty even-handed in terms of how the material is presented.  But something about the choice to present this class does not sit right with me.  I wonder if classes were designed in the wake of Pearl Harbor, or Oklahoma City, or Columbine encouraging students to “develop a tangible connection to what happened”?

In looking around on the website for the September 11th Education Trust, the group that developed the curriculum, there are some unsettling connections.  The first group listed on their “Links” page is a group called “9/11 Families for a Secure America“. Their goals are plainly listed on their homepage:

The 9/11 FSA Foundation educates Americans about the continuing threats that open borders produce.   Those threats arise from unrestricted legal  immigration and illegal immigration.

The United States’ open borders is a problem that is inextricably linked with terrorism and crime.  The 9/11 Commission stated the danger very clearly:  Terrorists cannot commit acts of terror in the United States if they are unable to get into the country.  It is equally obvious that violent aliens cannot commit individual crimes in the U.S. if they are unable to get into the country.

The ‘success’ of bin Ladin’s attacks of September 11, 2001 depended entirely on the ability of his killers to enter the United States.  Similarly, millions of individual violent crimes committed against innocent Americans cannot happen if foreigners are  propertly[sic] screened before they can cross our borders.

Their banner at the top of their homepage says that they are “a national security watchdog organization of relatives of those murdered in the September 11 attacks and of victims of other violent crimes committed by aliens, both legal and illegal.”  They advocate immediately deploying armed troops to the Mexican and Canadian borders, measures to “re-establish assimilation as the goal of U.S. Immigration policy”, ensuring all ballots are printed in English only, and enthusiastically call for a new “Operation Wetback”.  Operation Wetback was an Eisenhower-era program that sought to remove approximately a million immigrants from the Southwestern United States.  Thousands of Border Patrol agents conducted sweeps of Mexican-American neighborhoods and random stops to check the ID’s of “Mexican-looking” people, eventually leading to the deportation of approximately 130,000 immigrants.  It’s curious why they choose to focus on the immigration issue, given that none of the 9/11 hijackers entered the country illegally.

To be sure, there are other links to organizations that don’t seem to be so troubling, and although I think the naked xenophobia on parade here is unsettling, that’s not really even the reason I’m uncomfortable with it.  What bothers me the most, is that there doesn’t seem to be any effort to create context behind the September 11th attacks.  In other words, WHY did they choose to attack us?  Bush’s fatuous answer was “Because of our freedoms”.  The real answer is a great deal more complicated, and probably involves a deeper examination of our government’s foreign policy for at least the last 60 years.  But it appears that it will be presented as one more terrorist attack in a spate of more-or-less random attacks over the past two decades that have left the civilized world bewildered as to where they will strike next.   Such a narrow interpretation of events will further entrench the idea that we, as Americans, can do no wrong in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary.

Lastly, and incidentally to this story, Van Jones (Obama’s Green Jobs Czar) resigned last  weekend after revelations that he had signed a “truther” petition.  “Truther” is derogatory media shorthand for anyone who does not fully believe the official view of the events of 9/11.  And I want to be clear: I don’t know what happened on 9/11.  And I was once as dismissive and irritated with “truthers” as I currently am with “birthers”.  But that does not mean that they are not raising valid questions about the events of 9/11.  Other signatories to the petition that Jones signed include some notable names: Ralph Nader, Daniel Ellsberg (of Pentagon Papers fame), Medea Benjamin (co-0founder of Code Pink), Catherine Austin Fitts (Secretary of Housing in first Bush administration), and Cynthia McKinney (5-term Congresswoman from Georgia and presidential candidate in 2008).  And literally thousands of other credible, articulate people.  Charlie Sheen this week is making news on the same topic.  This is no baseless fringe movement, there are peer-reviewed and published scientific articles that question the official story.  And really, all they’re saying is that maybe it’s not so incredible that Bush lied in order to get us into war.  Well, we already know he lied (several times) to get us into war, but maybe he lied about this too.  But, regardless of the truth or falsity of their claims, the truthers are probably barking up the wrong tree given that the nation appears to have little appetite to investigate past abuses.

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Category: American Culture, Education, History

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is a full-time wage slave and part-time philosopher, writing and living just outside Omaha with his lovely wife and two feline roommates.

Comments (2)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    So, the 9/11 hijackers would have been stopped if they had been kept out of the U.S? I guess that there are no airports in Toronto or Havana or any of a dozen other foreign cities about as convenient to the targets as were Boston and Chicago.

    Tighter borders make things much harder for law abiding folks, but only marginally more difficult for hypothetical attackers. The Great Wall of China, and the Maginot line are two well known examples of hideously expensive, ultimately guarded borders that failed within a decade of completion.

    The real lesson is that a small group of determined individuals with imagination and nothing to lose can destroy an industry and hold a nation captive.

    Another lesson is that the people who took matters into their own hands can also stop such an attack (Flight 93). One cannot wait for a benevolent "them" to protect us.

    It's time to stop thinking that closing borders can work. It's time to stop thinking that economics can ever be a local issue. It's time to stop thinking that any particular site is invulnerable.

  2. Jay Fraz says:

    At some point 9/11 will have to be taught, but I think it is important not to teach the students WHAT to think about the incident, much the same way that we do very little to teach students WHAT to think about the Atom Bombings of Japan and the attack on Pearl harbor.

    It may seem odd for it to be broken down to such simple wrote knowledge, but this is an area where in which the students should think for themselves and form their own opinions.

    As for the anti-immigrant folks, I hate to see 9/11 used that way. Of course we need to control immigration and our borders, but that doesn't mean we need massive domestic deployment of the military.

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