Teaching 9/11 a challenge

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The school librarian has a tradition.

Each September, Charlotte Weyant pulls several books from the shelves of the James Bickley Elementary School library. One details the tragedy of Sept.11, 2001; others celebrate the city of New York.

The librarian places them on display for her students. Weyant does not discuss the books with her students unless asked.

By Friday afternoon, however, none remained in the library. All had been borrowed by students.

“I don’t draw the books to their attention,” Weyant said. “I leave it to them to approach me with questions.”

Those questions arise not only around the anniversary of the event, but at other times, too, Weyant said.

Students comment about the planes that crashed into the twin towers. They comment on images from that day seen on TV, on things they overhear in discussions. They comment on people they know who remind them of the day, such as firefighters or relatives who live in big cities.

“There’s not any particular thread that I see among them, but it seems to be something that pops into their heads from time to time,” Weyant said.

In Clovis schools, the way 9/11 is approached depends largely upon the teacher and the age of students, according to school officials.

The event is not incorporated into state standards and benchmarks, according to Cindy Martin, Clovis Municipal Schools director of instruction. The catastrophic day is still absent from textbooks used in Clovis schools, Martin said. Every seven years, new textbooks are adopted in New Mexico.

Martin believes the event will appear in newer textbooks, eventually.

But for now, it is left for teachers to decide to address the event or not, Martin said.

“We do have a couple of story-type books that can be read in class, and some teachers incorporate (9/11) into their history lessons,” Martin said.

In classrooms, the depth of 9/11 coverage often corresponds to the age of the students.

“For younger students, you don’t go into depth on the topic, other than what people did on that day, the great character that was shown, the heroes that emerged, honoring those who lost their lives,” Martin said.

“Older students, they can study some of the causes of that day, Middle Eastern countries and how this arose,” she said.

Students at Gattis Junior High School are asked to write an essay on how the event has impacted their lives or their country, said Mike Perkins, head of the history department at Gattis. He added the assignment to his curriculum four years ago, he said.

“I tell my students,” Perkins said, “(9/11) is something you will always remember for the rest of your life.

“It happened in your lifetime.”