Public schools, CMU, working 9/11 into studies

Luke Turner, an 11-year-old 6th grade student at Fruita Middle School looks at video of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center building in New York.

Few students have to be taught something tragic happened on Sept. 11, 2011. They either remember the day or have heard about it their whole lives.

Still, lessons related to that day have worked their way into various classes at Colorado Mesa University and in School District 51 schools.

Tim Casey, a political science professor at Colorado Mesa, said he talks about how 9/11 affected U.S. policy in his foreign policy and security policy classes. Casey teaches that the events of that day brought a greater focus to terrorism and brought more attention to the role of foreign oil and pipelines in energy policy.

9/11 is mentioned in some political science discussions, but it hasn’t become a pillar of the discipline, Casey said.

“In some classes it had a huge effect. In others, it had a ripple but didn’t change the game,” Casey said. “It doesn’t change what human beings want. We still want freedom and justice.”

Colorado Mesa history professor Steve Schulte said 9/11 was added to textbooks soon after the event. He teaches about the day in a Global America class that begins with the Vietnam and Cold wars and ends with current wars in the Middle East.

Teaching about the events following 9/11, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is something most students understand. It’s a little trickier, Schulte said, to help young students understand life before 9/11.

“Very few students remember before,” he said, although most students have heard from their parents about how life has changed.

Students in local elementary schools don’t usually talk about the event that happened before most of them were born, according to Teri LeFebre, District 51’s secondary science and social studies specialist. But the subject does appear in textbooks used by District 51 middle and high schools.

“High school history goes from U.S. history to the present,” LeFebre said. “The individual pedagogy is a teacher’s choice.”

Middle schools may or may not include 9/11 in discussions of world conflicts and regions of the world, depending on a teacher’s instructional choices. But both areas offer a place to talk about conflicts in and with the Middle East and the United States’ relationship with that part of the world before, during and after 9/11.

LeFebre said it’s more common for teachers to discuss 9/11-related events in a current events format rather than in a history class.

There is no districtwide event planned around this year’s 10th anniversary, but LeFebre predicted some schools will either discuss the anniversary in class and/or show videos or pictures from that day in 2001.


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