Has teaching 9/11 become obsolete?

With the anniversary of 9/11 having come and gone within the past 18 years, each graduating class moves on with their life, and students have become more dissociated and less connected with the tragedy, loss, and overwhelming sense of anxiety that enveloped the nation. 

To this year’s group of students on campus, hearing about the catastrophic events occurring on Sept. 11 is similar to their generation parents hearing to John F. Kennedy shooting. They see and understand how these events unfolded, but without being immersed in this event and unable to remember a first-person-perspective, students often find themselves incapable to establish a personal connection with the event.

As a whole, the vast majority of the class of 2020 was not born when the attacks of Sept. 11 occurred, and, for those who were alive, were likely only days to weeks old. Either way, this lack of remembrance has created a buffer regarding teaching students about these events.  

Students may never understand the true magnitude of these attacks. 

Airports were shut down for days. Workplaces and businesses closed. Americans remained essentially house-bound. The idea that our country that we swore to fight for and protect was safe was simply a thought of yesterday. America was still. The whole world was put on halt.

But what does this entail for teachers in the Chandler and Gilbert suburbs? In a place isolated by a harsh climate and surrounding mountains, we are already removed from tragedies, but as timeliness fades, so does empathy. 

So where do we go from here?

No longer a current event for students, the ability to form an empathetic connection is often lost with the ability to gain a perspective into this event. 

“For some people, they almost have to prove they are pro-American in order to be accepted as American,” stated history teacher John Prothro with an almost despondent look.

He went on to discuss the difficulties and precautions he takes when discussing this topic in class. He went on to speak of the importance of context when discussing history. The context being approximately 3.16 million Americans enlisting in military services after the attack.

They have been forced to discuss being an American, a title that has been stripped since the attacks. Feelings of pride and unity have risen once more, with fear and anger ebbing out like tar. 

“Once I think everyone understands the context of what was happening… then people won’t… be so offended by 2019 standards,” he explained. 

In other words, when teaching the future generations about 9/11, emphasizing the importance of context and resulting consequences is crucial in order to allow students to form their own opinions. 

By discussing what it truly means to be an American in relation to the attacks, students will be able to gain their own perspective and truth regarding the events and how they influenced present-day America.  

There may never again be a time where discussing the events of 9/11 is an easy thing, but we must consider the day it is no longer current enough to be a serious one.