Current events become curriculum for students at area high schools
Social studies takes on a whole new sense of immediacy when it’s occurring right smack in the midst of your everyday life.
That’s what students from Garfield Re-2 and Roaring Fork Re-1 school districts learned this week as the nation commemorated the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Opening a book and reading about an event that happened centuries ago is one thing.
It’s quite another to turn on the radio, the television or the newspaper and see history in the making.
Glenwood Springs High School teacher Guy Brickell is incorporating the hard lessons of Sept. 11 into his curriculum.
For Brickell, it’s important to focus on the positive aspects of the tragedies. And however difficult that may initially seem, it’s possible.
“We’re looking at how people have shined in their response to the attacks,” Brickell said.
Brickell is basing his lesson plans on material from the Bill of Rights Institute, a national nonprofit organization that provides teaching materials to high school social studies teachers about the Bill of Rights.
Founded in 1999, the organization works through teachers to help students understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens. It also provides information about the historical and intellectual origins of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
When so much of the media are replaying horrific scenes of planes flying into buildings or interviewing grieving family members, Brickell thinks there are constructive lessons to be learned. He says he would rather focus on how people rallied around one another, offering help to their fellow citizens.
Meanwhile, a group of Glenwood Springs High School students ate lunch outside on Tuesday and agreed that although the attacks were horrible, some good has come out of them.
“This terrible thing has brought people together,” said junior Eleni Roussos. “People are generally a lot more friendly to each other.”
Even emotions like empathy seem to be more prevalent now.
“The attacks were quite a shock,” said sophomore Connor O’Meara. “The whole mood of the class was remorseful and somber the day it happened. It still feels like the same mood whenever anybody brings up 9-11.”
“It seems like it’s a lot easier to start up conversations with people since the attacks,” Glenwood High School student Caitlin Barnes said. “People do seem a lot more friendly.”
“We’re looking at the virtues displayed following the attacks,” Brickell said. “So many people helped out however they could. Others raised money for the victims’ families.”
Like Brickell, the Bill of Rights Institute is focusing on those civic virtues during this week of national remembrance.
“In this lesson, students will commemorate the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 by focusing on those civic values that enabled the American people to respond – both individually and collectively – to the horrific attacks of that day and to ultimately triumph over adversity,” states the institute’s lesson plan for the week of Sept. 11, “Commemorating America’s Civic Values.”
“By examining what our nation’s founders and others have said about civic values and then looking for examples of these values in the national reaction to Sept. 11, students will be affirmed to their adherence to these values and inspired to live by them.”
Karen Green’s political science class at Basalt High School is studying and discussing the aftermath of Sept. 11, as it unfolds.
On Tuesday, Green challenged the students to look at the war on terror differently. “Does 9-11 represent a turning point in our world today?” she wrote on the board.
“It’s more of a turning point in our place as a world power,” said senior Rachel Owen. “We’ve discovered a big vulnerability to how we conduct our foreign policy.”
“What do they say?” asked senior Shelby Wood. “The stronger you are, the more vulnerable you are. That’s what’s happening to the U.S.”
Green distributed a series of recently published articles concerning Sept. 11. The students read through each article, commenting after reading each one.
One piece on hatred and racial profiling provoked an in-depth discussion on where prejudice and hate originate.
“I don’t mean to offend anybody, but why do we hate them?” said senior Jenn Stroud. “We always are talking about how much they hate us, but we have to look at it differently. The West has never been able to convert the people of the Middle East to a Western way of thinking, which makes us a tyrant to them. But it also makes our hatred come to the surface.”
Ukare Sano, a junior, talked about racial profiling.
“We went to Japan this summer,” she said, “and an Arab-looking man was in line in front of us. He had darker skin, and he kept getting pulled out of the line. That’s changed since 9-11. It’s unjust.”
Green asked Sano, whose father is Japanese, if she had any feelings about racial profiling. Japanese Americans were kept in internment camps during World War II as a result of the same type of profiling.
“My dad doesn’t like to watch the movie `Pearl Harbor,'” she said. “He doesn’t talk about it.”
“My relatives changed their name during World War II because it sounded too German,” said Jenn Stroud. “They didn’t want to be discriminated against.”
The final written piece was a synopsis from a recent press conference President Bush held with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Green asked her students to read the piece and to be prepared to discuss Bush’s upcoming decision regarding Saddam Hussein and invading Iraq.
“I think we should go in,” said senior David Leslie. “The fact that he’s building up weapons and won’t let us inspect them is reason enough.”
“We shouldn’t go in,” said Emily Dysart, a senior. “Two wrongs don’t make a right. We have no business being there at all.”
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