Remembering 9/11/02:

Ideas for the School Community

Especially on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2002, but also throughout the school year, school principals and staff need to consider how they will help their students come to understand these events and their aftermath in private lives and government policies.

Suggestions for Marking the 9/11/02 Anniversary

  • Choose an activity that includes individual as well as group reflection. This might include a writing assignment in social studies or English classes following an all-school assembly. (See the activities “Identity and Society” and  “Human Rights through the Art of Storytelling”)
  • Emphasize the wider local community. Include adult members of the community, such as parents and public servants (e.g., elected officials, firefighters, police, etc.) in memorial activities.
  • Encourage an awareness of the global interconnectedness of events.
  • Ask all members of the community to consider what they have learned as a result of events of 9/11. Especially ask what people feel they need to learn more about.
  • Create a climate and forum for sharing a wide spectrum of ideas and responses.
  • Avoid creating polarizing generalizations. For example, make a clear distinction between Islam and Islamic militants, Arabs and Muslims.
  • Consider an all-school learning day on Islam, Afghanistan, or the nature of terrorism, emphasizing the fact that terrorism is not exclusive to any group.
  • Emphasize the importance of individual responsibility and participation in the community.
  • See Facing History and Ourselves web site for additional memorial ideas.

Suggestions for On-Going Community Activities

  • Establish a world events club that would read and discuss current global affairs.
  • Offer an elective course or encourage the addition of units on world religions, Islam, the Arab World, the global economy, development, geography or other topics relevant to 9/11 events.
  • Invite assembly or classroom speakers on relevant topics (e.g., human rights, global economy, Islam, religious extremism).
  • Encourage an evaluation of the climate of the school: how well does our school community reflect the values of diversity and democracy? (See the activity “Taking the Human Rights Temperature of Your School”)
  • Support school organizations that offer exposure to a global perspective like Model UN, Amnesty international, and Oxfam.
  • Remember that faculty may also lack a background in global affairs and diversity. Arrange speakers and workshops on faculty enrichment days that will deepen staff appreciation of the complexity of issues.
  • Create library displays and reading lists of periodicals and books on related topics.

Some Caveats

  • Avoid eliciting automatic responses, especially in unthinking gestures and statements. Instead encourage personal reflection.
  • Never assume that the community shares the same views and feelings. Allow for diversity of opinion in any memorial activity.
  • Be sensitive to polarizing “us:them” terminology by both staff and students. Instead show that innocent people are hurt in warfare of all kinds, including both terrorism and a war against terrorism.
  • Avoid over-simplifying issues, even for younger students. Instead, emphasize that these topics are complex and require serious thought and thorough information.

Copyright: University of Minnesota Human Rights Center