Cheryl Duckworth, an associate professor of conflict resolution and peace education at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, studied teaching about 9/11. She found that many teachers don’t address the subject at all, and those who do often take only a cursory look. “The teachers felt a real patriotic duty to make sure the students knew this event happened, but a lot of what’s being done is commemorating it or honoring first responders,” Duckworth said. “That’s valid, but it doesn’t help the kids ask the critical questions and understand the context of living in a post-9/11 world.”
America’s schools — where collective memory is shaped — are now full of students who weren’t alive 15 years ago. As such, many teachers struggle with whether and how to teach the attacks and their aftermath. According to one survey, only about 20 states include anything in depth about the events of that fateful day in their high school social studies curriculum. And when they are taught, critics say, it’s often through a narrow lens.