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What Ohio Says About Teaching 9/11 in Schools

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 7:00 AM

A personal note to a young mother is displayed with other pictures of people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Ohio is one of about two dozen states that call for some students to know something about 9/11. But unlike places closer to the attacks, like New York City and New Jersey, Ohio doesn't expect students to learn about the 2001 attacks before high school.

The standards defining what Ohio high schoolers should know about American history mention the attacks. The model curriculum for high school American history classes places the attacks in the context of post-Cold War geopolitics.

The standards for younger students don't address them at all.

And some Ohio educators say talking about 9/11 with younger students isn't appropriate.

At Avon Village Elementary School west of Cleveland, kindergarteners learn about patriotism and the Pledge of Allegiance. They put U.S. flags on the school lawn and wear red, white and blue. But they don't commemorate the attacks, the school's principal told

"Patriot Day is an opportunity to teach patriotism and the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Teachers will focus on the definition of the words and phrases in the Pledge. Students will learn that the United States of America is built upon big ideas like unity and variety; fairness and freedom; creativity and equality; and liberty and justice for all. The American flag is a symbol of who we are as a people. The flag stands for our history, our inventions, our music, sports, literature, faith, and government, i.e. everything we are the American people. Students also will learn the proper way to salute the flag and how to show respect for the flag."

Contrast that with one model New York City lesson.

The lesson for students in grades K-3 has the teacher read aloud a children's book about two sisters stranded in New York City in the aftermath of the attacks. After reviewing the basic elements of the 9/11 event with students and discussing the book, the class is supposed to:

  • Discuss ways in which people in the story comforted and helped each other.
  • Discuss and illustrate ways in which they could comfort children in their school and in other communities after tragic events (i.e. tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, etc.).
  • Using suggestions, students conceive, create, and send works to those needing help or comfort, either in their community or across the country.

(The U.S. Department of Education has also assembled some resources for teaching about 9/11.)

Last year, before the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the Ohio Department of Education “strongly encourage[d] all schools to plan some type of observance, preferably in conjunction with local veterans’ groups.” Suggested activities included having students interview adults about 9/11, then using those interviews in student presentations and class discussions and inviting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to speak to students.

Still, some older students are commemorating the attacks this year.

At St. Paul of Akron Elementary School, the students in Jud Hartman’s eighth-grade home room are helping a retired Akron firefighter memorialize the victims of Sept. 11 attacks, the Akron Beacon Journal reports:

“They ask a lot of questions,” [Hartman] said of the students, who for the most part have no memory of the attacks because they were about 2 years old at the time.

For example, Hartman said, they want to know “what happened to the people above the fires.”

He said it is a very important duty for him to teach young people about 9/11.

“Their lives are different because of what happened,” he said.

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