ARTICLE

Bringing 9/11 in the Classroom—Useful Lessons

As a matter of practice, we encourage teachers to integrate learning opportunities about religious tolerance and cultural understanding throughout the school year. But this is especially important as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches.

As a matter of practice, we encourage teachers to integrate learning opportunities about religious tolerance and cultural understanding throughout the school year. But this is especially important as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches.

The materials suggested below address many religious and cultural issues—issues that are likely to remain in the news through the 2012 elections and beyond. But addressing anti-Muslim bias and teaching accurately about Islam should be clear priorities for U.S. teachers.

Teaching Tolerance offers engaging classroom activities and projects for every grade level. Here are a few to consider: 

Comparative Religion
Taking a Closer Look at Religions around the World can be used with two accompanying handouts—Discovering Similarities Between Religions and Collaborating to Resolve Religious Issues. Together, they provide a starting point for teaching comparative religion to middle and high school students.

Understanding Other Religious Beliefs helps students learn about other faiths and promotes religious tolerance. 

Cultural Understanding
Debunking Stereotypes About Muslims and Islam helps students identify similarities and differences between the U.S. Muslim population and the entire U.S. population. It also dispels myths about Islam.

The School Holiday Calendar examines the holidays of various faiths and asks students to analyze the often complex social problems surrounding those holidays.

Understanding Religious Clothing uses traditional garments to compare religions and deepen understanding.  

Building a Bridge of Understanding uses art to start a dialogue about Islam.

Developing Authentic Identities
The Multicultural Self helps students understand the cultural norms that shape the way we interact with the world.

Reflection: What’s Your Frame? encourages students to reflect on culture and history. Students are asked to study their own backgrounds and values.

Examining Identity and Assimilation asks students an important question: Was there ever a part of your identity you had to hide?

Professional Development
10 Tips for Starting a World Religions Curriculum offers steps on how to develop a world religions curriculum with inclusion and sensitivity.

Keep it Academic suggests resources that allow teachers to integrate religious studies into the academic curriculum without taking sides. Similarly, Maintain Neutrality illustrates how schools can teach religious tolerance and stay within constitutional boundaries.

In addition to Teaching Tolerance resources, we have sought out practical educational materials that spark respectful conversations around this poignant anniversary.

Conversation Guidelines for Schools and Academic Settings, developed by the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, gives tips on how to hold respectful conversations about 9/11 and religious beliefs. It is intended to help students with differing perspectives understand one another.

Also, Facing History and Ourselves offers engaging resources on religious tolerance. In Talking About Religions, Eboo Patel, the founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, speaks about the crucial experiences that allow us to deal with religious diversity, friendship and standing up for each other.

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 is obviously a time for reflection. But we hope that teachers also recognize it as a time to nurture constructive relationships with people whose backgrounds differ from our own.

Ronk is curriculum design manager for Teaching Tolerance.