News From Terre Haute, Indiana

9/11: 10th Anniversary Coverage

September 10, 2011

TEACHING TRAGEDY: Attacks created new chapters for the history books

TERRE HAUTE — The 9/11 terrorist attacks permanently changed the daily routine for students in the Vigo County School Corp.

All schools now start their day with the Pledge of Allegiance, says Jim Mann, a Terre Haute South Vigo High School social studies teacher.

 In November 2001, the Vigo County School Board approved a motion calling for all schools to start the day with the Pledge. Then-board member Ken Schuster made the motion. “I think patriotism is important in view of the fact we are in a war against terrorism,” he said at the time.

Mann teaches an advanced social studies class called American Spectra, and 9/11 is one of the subjects covered.

One resource he uses is the Sept. 12, 2001, edition of the Tribune-Star, which chronicles the terrorist attacks and local reaction.

For students, “I think it is very eye-opening,” he said. His current students would have been in the early elementary grades at the time of the attacks.

When he teaches about 9/11, he explains how it was a catalyst for change in many ways in the United States, including how Americans perceived their freedom. Students will have a better grasp of why airport security has become much more strict.

They’ll also have a better understanding that “there are people around the world who don’t like us,” he said.

He also points out that the 9/11 terrorist attacks “have led to American involvement in many locations around the world,” including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Through their studies, he hopes his students develop a greater appreciation of the military and the price of freedom. In October 2009, Terre Haute South graduate and U.S. Army Sgt. Dale Griffin was killed while serving in Afghanistan.

Griffin, a 1999 South graduate, joined the Army after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The funeral service for Griffin took place in the Terre Haute South gym. The loss of one of their own brings it home, Mann said. “It’s with us.”

In his instruction, he also uses a 27-minute online summary of the major new broadcasts from 9/11. It was passed onto him by another South social studies teacher, Shawn Nevill.

Social studies textbooks deal with 9/11 from different perspectives, Mann said. In Magruder’s American Government book, an entire section is devoted the expansion of presidential powers. It begins with the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and ends with President George W. Bush. It asks, “How did President Bush expand the power of the presidency? How did this affect the system of checks and balances?”

The U.S. history book, “The American Vision,” develops 9/11 as a turning point in American history and uses photos and maps.

In “The American Pageant,” used by Advanced Placement juniors, students learn how 9/11 brought about a discussion on the benefits and costs of an open society. The book provides students with the opportunity to learn how “Terrorism comes to America.” al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, USA Patriot Act, Department of Homeland Security and Guantanamo Detention Camp are developed. A key focus is how catastrophic terrorism posed an unprecedented challenge.

9/11 is “history” to younger students

Dale Brown, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Honey Creek Middle School, has organized the school’s annual Veterans Day program for 14 years. But ever since 9/11, the program also recognizes firefighters, police and first responders.

Brown’s goal is to honor those heroes and “to educate students about the sacrifices people have made for our freedoms.” He also believes the program brings the community together; people from throughout the Wabash Valley attend.

He does take one or two class periods each year to talk about 9/11. His eighth-grade students now would have been about age 3 at the time of the attacks.

He has some books on 9/11 and there will be a class discussion. Some years, other teachers have done writing projects or shown videos.

Recently, he asked his students what, if anything, they remembered of 9/11 — at age 3.

“They know very little about it unless someone has talked to them about it,” or they have seen movies or television shows about 9/11, Brown said.

One student remembered being in Florida at the time and the family had to drive home because airplanes were grounded.

Another student recalled going to his grandmother’s house; one day, she had a picture of the World Trade Center twin towers in the house, but the next time he went there, the picture was gone.

Brown hopes his students develop a sense of patriotism. “I still think the United States is the greatest country in the world,” even though there are some setbacks, he said.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks may have happened a decade ago, but they still have an impact today in many ways, he tells his students.

Memorials are being built in honor of the victims, and first responders who played instrumental roles responding to the World Trade Center attacks are still developing illnesses after inhaling the toxic cloud of dust and debris 10 years ago.

He believes students need to know about the country’s leaders and with what they cope. While partisan politics in Washington seems to be at an all-time high, in difficult times, it is important that they bond together for a common cause, Brown said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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