Tuesday marked the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which four airliners hijacked by Islamist militants killed nearly 3,000 people.
Although the attacks that occurred that day are considered to be the worst in U.S. history, Boyle Heights Beat contributor and Roosevelt High School English teacher Gene Deans says it’s not a topic he discusses much in the classroom.
In a Q&A below, Dean explains most students don’t relate to the 9/11 attacks either because they were too young to remember or because of the lack of proximity to the events.
Why doesn’t the topic of 9/11 come up in your classroom?
“First, there is no standard saying I need to teach my students about 9/11. Second, being on the Pacific Coast, there are no visual day-to-day reminders of 9/11. There is nothing missing from our skyline, and the wars caused by it are far too distant. To teach about 9/11, a teacher has to have a very clear idea of the goals of the unit.”
Is it important for students to know more about the war on terror and other issues surrounding 9/11?
“I do think that our students need to know more about this because it honestly has created the world we live in right now. We have become so inured to what happened that we do not even realize how we view the world as a scarier place. The students know so little about what happened, and yet they see the world through that lens of all brown people with turbans being threats. They see and have no problem equating people very much like them, for example, immigrants, as terrorists, not realizing how they play into the same stereotypes they deal with.”
Do you think you will implement instruction on the 9/11 events in the future?
“I can see myself planning a unit, either for my 9th graders, or somehow tag-teaming this event for my AP students, and at the same time my students are learning, I am too.
I could tell the students that we need to study something that we all know, but do not really understand. As a social justice oriented instructor, I know more than likely that I would focus on the loss of freedom and privacy that the creation of a fear nation has wrought, because that lack of freedom has deeply affected how my students perceive their rights and their freedom.”
Share your thoughts. Should the historic events of 9/11 be taught in the classroom?