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Discussing Osama Bin Laden with Students
posted by: Colin | May 04, 2011, 06:45 PM   

>> Originally posted by Jill on the AAE Blog:

I was teaching on September 11, 2001 when the Towers fell. In fact, my student's brother worked at the Twin Towers. (Sidenote: the brother escaped safely from the buildings before it collapsed). It was a long day of teaching. As eighteen and nineteen year-olds, the students wanted to talk about what was happening and it just seemed right to put the current lesson on hold and teach another lesson that day. Considering that we didn't have much information and my iPhone had yet to be invented, there were a lot of questions unanswered.

Four years later I was teaching 7th graders in Los Angeles County and while we had a similar conversation, it clearly varied in the depth of the first experience, though the students' questions were sincere. Both times it was a difficult task, but the students were asking me to address it and I felt it right to share.

If you are going to address the death of Osama Bin Laden, Chester E Finn, Jr. at the Thomas Fordham Institute writes a blog post which points to two reports that could be very useful in helping to discuss what occurred this past week and to connect these events with September 11th. The first report, released in 2003, is titled "Terrorists, Despots, and Democracy: What Our Children Need to Know." The second, released one year earlier is titled "September 11: What Our Children Need to Know." Both reports offer and background on what lead up to the events of this week, and Finn suggests them not just for educators but for any adults trying to explain to children (or other adults) why this week is significant.

Students are going to question and we need either (a) answers or (b) the ability to discuss issues that don't have clear answers. Most assuredly, we need only discuss with students that which is age appropriate and to the level which they are questioning. However, we must discuss it if there is a time which calls for it. Students perceive and absorb so much more than we give them credit. I am a fan of "going down Main Street" with them, rather than treating lightly the events/ignoring them. Yet, all in all, you're the professional and you decide what is appropriate for your school and classroom.
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