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Posted at 01:04 PM ET, 09/01/2011

Teaching Sept. 11: A more honest approach

Are children ready to see images of the burning towers? To see planes flying into buildings? To see a ruined Pentagon?
The twin towers at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (Jeff Christensen - Reuters)

Adult memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks may be fresh, but not so for most of our children, who might not remember much, might have been shielded from the worst of it or might not have even been born a decade ago. Now, with the 10-year commemoration, some educators have decided to be more forthcoming with kids about exactly what happened.

The educational company Pearson, which produces the widely used textbook “The American Nation” and online educational materials, has just overhauled its lesson plans regarding the attacks.

Originally, the company released textbooks after the attacks that contained sterile images for each grade level. Students in elementary school saw the standing twin towers; in middle school, they saw the flag at Ground Zero being hoisted and a candlelight vigil service; in high school, they saw the Ground Zero flag scene and members of Congress at a memorial service.

Now, Pearson has launched an online lesson plan for teachers that includes pictures of the burning twin towers, the destroyed Pentagon and people running in fear.

The lessons for younger students are focused on efforts to keep the country safe. For middle and high school students, they include oral histories with a firefighter and another with a woman who was in school near the attacks.

“For people who witnessed the tragic events that day, the images of the burning towers rekindle very strong emotional memories. For students who do not have memories of September 11, the images, while powerful, do not carry the same emotional weight,” said Emily Swenson, an executive with Pearson.

“These images appear to be no more traumatic to students than similar images of D-Day, Vietnam or other historical events.”

She might be right, especially since the company estimates 60 million American children are under the age of 13, too young to remember anything from that day. For some of them, 9/11 will remain vivid because of their personal family losses. For the vast majority, it will be a historical event, images of which will seem dated, inconceivable.

Well, to all of us, those images will seem inconceivable.

How do you plan to broach the Sept. 11 attacks with your children?

By  |  01:04 PM ET, 09/01/2011

 
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