Tolerance or patriotism?
AMERICA'S EDUCATORS have been struggling with how to address the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the classroom. In response, the Humboldt County Office of Education has sent out a packet titled "September 11th -- A Resource for Districts and Schools" to all school district superintendents.
The packet is intended as a resource, a nonproscriptive book of suggestions to get the ball rolling.
It is divided up into age categories (1st through 7th, and 7th through 12th grades) and comes in two parts: honoring Sept. 11, which explores the event in context as a memorial; and beyond Sept. 11, which emphasizes promoting acceptance and inclusion in schools; exploring the root of hate crimes and violence and how to combat them.
For the younger set, the focus is on expressing the feelings that the attack raised. One exercise, for example, presents children with a set of facial expressions ranging from sadness to anger and asks them to choose the one that matched their experience.
Another suggested exercise is to have children express their patriotism through art projects, such as coloring the American flag.
Older students are encouraged to look at the terrorism in a historical context, and to think about possible reasons for the attack beyond blind hatred. The students would also be presented with more detailed information about the hijackers and their motivations.
Both younger and older students would be urged to consider issues of intolerance and prejudice that the attacks raised. Suggested topics range from hate crimes to lists of "101 Tools for Tolerance" and "101 Ways to Combat Prejudice."
Among the possible curriculums are those with titles ranging from "Peace and Non-violence" to "We the People."
Across the country there has been a debate over whether tolerance or patriotism should be the focus of 9-11 curricula. A set of suggested "lesson plans" on tolerance by the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union, drew such intense fire from conservatives that the organization pulled the information from its Web site last week.
The view of locals appears to be that it would be a mistake to emphasize one over the other.
"I think either one would be the wrong course of action," said John Fullerton, a Eureka school board member. "This was a crime that was committed against us and it was a terrible thing. Other than that I don't think it should be emphasized too much."
He added that he thought Gov. Gray Davis' call for a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., when the first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, was memorial enough in terms of the schools.
He and others were particularly concerned about the consequences of rehashing the attacks, especially on younger children.
"I think all schools will be doing something in the way of honoring and remembering [the events of Sept. 11]," said Marie Twibell, principal of Pine Hill Elementary in Eureka. "But we don't want to re-traumatize the kids."
-- Andrew Edwards
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