Twelve years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, students too young to remember the events of that day are required to learn about them in their history books.
High school U.S. History covers European colonization through the 21st century. The course’s final requirement under the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards is for students to understand changes in national politics since 1968, which involves analyzing “the response of President George W. Bush to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on the United States, the war against terrorism, and the subsequent American interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Rose Carraway, the Columbia County School System director of student learning for high schools, said teachers in Georgia must follow the curriculum standards, but have flexibility in how they teach the content.
Some educators teach U.S. History chronologically and will not delve into 9/11 attacks until the end of the school year when they reach current events. Others may use the anniversary as a lesson and explore repercussions of the attacks that day.
“In September I’m covering the American Revolution, and I’ve got to stay on pace to fit in all that we are required to,” said Academy of Richmond County history teacher Will Christman. “If I mention Sept. 11 (the day of), it is just acknowledging the anniversary of the attacks.”
The history portion of the End of Course Tests, which count for 20 percent of a student’s final grade and help measure a school’s progress, does not include content past 1970, so Christman said academic demands push teachers to stay on the curriculum track.
“It’s so hard to even get that far,” he said. “I say if we kill Lincoln by Christmas we’re on the right track.”
At Grovetown High School, U.S. history teacher Tracy Roden said her entire department will take 15 minutes to work on 9/11 related activities on Wednesday.
With fewer students being old enough to remember the events, Roden said she tries to get them to grasp the severity of the attack.
“I used to ask the kids ‘Where were you when?’ but the kids now were like 3, so I tell them where I was to get their attention because I was flying that day,” Roden said. “Then I show them a clip of the actual event that happened at the Pentagon and the historical footage. Then we talk about the effects of it. I try to get them to realize they’re still feeling the effects of it.”
David Bradberry, a history teacher at Westside High School, said he will briefly acknowledge the 9/11 anniversary Wednesday but will not divert far from his curriculum plan.
The history standard that focuses on changes in politics since 1968 also requires content about the Carter administration’s efforts in the Middle East and his response to the 1979 Iranian Revolution – so to save time, Bradberry often mixes the 9/11 and terrorism discussion in with that.
“By April you’re scrambling to finish the curriculum and review for EOCT ... so we’re bound to stay on track,” he said.
With students getting older every year, Bradberry can no longer ask his students to complete a “where were you when” essay on the 9/11 attacks.
By now, that exercise is included in the “find someone who was there when,” which is also used for memories of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier and the launch of Sputnik.