Summit students study Sept. 11
SUMMIT COUNTY – U.S. history teacher Jim Skvorc’s Summit High School students have been studying Sept. 11 since school started last week.
Now that a year has passed since the tragic events, Skvorc said, students have been very interested in talking about the events of Sept. 11, as well as those which might have led to the attacks, and the aftermath.
“(Students) were just hungry for knowledge, hungry for facts,” he said. “They were ready to discuss it. We’ve had some excellent discussion.”
Nationally, educators have debated how to approach the events in education. The National Education Association compiled more than 100 lesson plans to assist teachers in elementary through high schools to incorporate the day’s events in various subjects including art, drama and math.
But Summit High’s new history textbooks present the Sept. 11 events as they do other events in U.S. history – factually. The section begins with the events of the morning of the attacks, rescue efforts and cleanup and leads into the U.S. search for the terrorists and the impacts on American life.
Accompanying graphs include the flight paths of the four hijacked planes, how debris was removed from Ground Zero, terrorism internationally and in the U.S. since 1995, and a flow chart illustrating how Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization is structured.
Skvorc began class discussions by reviewing the events systematically – what happened, when, and how many people were killed.
“From there, we went into a discussion of why might people do this,” Skvorc said. “Then we went into a discussion of kids’ feelings, now that it’s a year later, and how does this bode for the future?”
Although students have expressed varying opinions regarding Sept. 11 – some advocating war and others questioning whether the U.S. brought the attacks upon itself – Skvorc said the class discussions have remained respectful and never argumentative.
“The main thing I want the kids to understand is there’s no right or wrong answers,” he said. “We have no answers right now.”
Skvorc teaches freshmen, juniors and English as a Second Language (ESL) students.
“I think our students in Summit County are pretty bright, open-minded and fair when it comes to discussing this issue,” he said. “The level of interest and the tone of the discussion were just as earnest on the part of the freshmen as it was of the juniors. (And ESL) students are just as involved and just as aware as the native-born.”
In one of his junior classes Tuesday, Skvorc led discussions about the Patriot Act, which Congress passed in October, and how it might have affected American civil rights.
One student asked, “What do you think Al Gore’s approach would have been?”
Others seemed to struggle to make sense of killing additional innocent people in the war on terrorism. They discussed President Bush’s goal to widen the scope of the war on terrorism to include Saddam Hussein, whether other countries supported Bush and what the repercussions might be.
Earlier this week, Skvorc’s students wrapped up discussions about Sept. 11. in time to remember the tragedy and its victims today.
“I think the kids will be prepared to observe the anniversary,” he said.
Not all teachers at the high school have taken Skvorc’s approach to open school lessons with Sept. 11.
Scott Porter teaches both social studies and video production. Most teachers at the high school have addressed Sept. 11 as it relates to their subject, he said.
In his social studies class, Porter will begin discussions of Sept. 11 once his classes delve into religion.
“We’ll look at the Middle East because they have the most dynamic theocratic government,” Porter said. “Church and state aren’t separated there.”
Even in his video production class, Porter has discussed the terrorist attacks – focusing on how the video images affected the viewer.
Distant shots of the World Trade Centers collapsing were more surreal and difficult to believe, while close-up footage, which usually was shot with hand-held cameras and often therefore shaky, was more emotional as it recorded people’s terror and reactions, Porter said.
John Spearling, a history teacher at Summit Middle School, said he won’t discuss the events of Sept. 11 right now, but they will come up in his curriculum because Sept. 11 “has permanently become a part of social studies history. When we’re doing problems of the Middle East, that will certainly come up. When we’re studying religions, that will come up.”
For today, however, Spearling and his students will focus their attention on recognizing the local heroes – the police and firefighters in Summit County.
“We’re making the point it’s not just the heroes on Sept 11, it’s the heroes in our community,” Spearling said.
Lu Snyder can be reached at 970-668-3998 x203 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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