Diverse voices are part of this anniversary’s news coverage. Assign students to find comments in articles, guest columns, letters, newspaper-hosted blogs or online forums that express different views and varied ages, religions, nationalities and political affiliations.
Discussions of 9/11 often include feelings about the Iraq war. Ask class members to take turns reading aloud a published comment about the war that comes close to how they feel – or one that does not reflect their views. Encourage students to consider why a columnist, editorial writer or person quoted may have reached that conclusion, and what they’d say in response.
Some readers, and even some journalists, dislike extensive coverage of a historic date – which they see as artificial and sometimes overdone. Although Sept. 11 never will pass without notice, invite students to assess whether coverage on and before this week’s fifth anniversary seems to be too much, not enough or about right.
For Americans of all ages, this week brings personal reflection and public discussion of a day that was a national turning point. Five years ago, terrorist hijackers used four passenger planes as weapons against our country. About 3,000 people died in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania from those attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. On Monday’s anniversary, designated as Patriot Day by Congress, flags fly at half-mast.
President George Bush suggests that Americans observe the day with ceremonies and activities, including remembrance services and candlelight vigils. In middle schools and high schools, classes examine topics such as ethnic stereotyping, religious tolerance, immigration policy, conflict resolution and the Iraq war. In print and broadcast media, the anniversary provides a touchstone for special coverage.
Although 9/11 initially seemed to unite most Americans as victims of a sneak attack, inevitably that has changed. Now the anniversary is a focal point for the kind of diverse opinions that reflect a vibrant democracy. In that sense, the sometimes-heated debates about politics, military policy, government secrecy and media coverage show that a vital part of American life was not a casualty of that dark day five years ago.
President says: “The extremists have not given up on their dreams to strike our nation. . . . Five years after 9/11 America still faces determined enemies. And we will not be safe until those enemies are finally defeated.”
Educator says: "What was under attack on 9/11 was not so much the symbols that were the buildings, but they were the values and the principles that unite us as American citizens. It is vitally important that our students learn just what those values and those principles are." -- Ted McConnell, director of the National Campaign to Promote Civic Education
Student says: “I learned a lot [that day]. I learned anything can happen at any given moment. That was the biggest day of my life.'' -- Byron Mitchell, 10th-grader in Sarasota, Fla.
Front Page Talking Points is written by
Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2013
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