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My View: The Wrong Way to Teach 9/11

Easton Area School District lesson on teaching children about Sept.11 attacks was inappropriate.

"Teach Your Children Well."

We hope that our educators always have that in mind when they teach our children.

But educators in the Easton Area School District failed on how some children were taught about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America.

Yes, everyone in our country needs to know -- and never forget -- the brutal attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, destroyed the World Trade Center towers in New York City and brought our country to its knees.

Sept. 11 will be a day on which we should mourn the loss of lives and always remember what our nation went through on that tragic day, which shook America to its core.

But do children who are 9 and 10 years old need to watch the horrific highlights of the attack: the smoldering towers and the crashing of airplanes into them?

That's just what some children watched on Tuesday.

And that was a major mistake. By showing those images to children, like it was done to fourth-graders in Shawnee Elementary School, for example, was inexcusable.

And it was inappropriate.

There's no need for children to see that suffering at such a young age.

And not only did they have to watch it; the students also then had to write down what they saw and try to explain what it meant.

I saw what my son, a fourth-grader at the school, brought home. We were not pleased, even though he handled it well. We have explained to him about the Sept. 11 attacks.

But other children did not handle the images so well. Some had nightmares about it.

Parents are upset about what happened. But they are afraid to complain.

Sure, honoring heroes -- like firefighters and police and soldiers -- who helped rescue people and save lives is the right thing to do. Taking a Moment of Silence, like what took place in other grades, to remember those who died is the right thing to do.

Showing the footage to a bunch of youngsters without parental consent is beyond comprehension.

So on behalf of the children and the parents, the Easton Area School District and the leaders of Shawnee Elementary School and others who aired the same footage owe everyone an apology.

And they also owe us a promise: that they will teach our children well. And that they will never make a mistake like this again.

Pam Capaldi September 16, 2012 at 11:07 AM
I have a 4th grader there, also. I was also shocked to here of the graphic video shown. We have sheltered our children as much as possible. Advanced notice would have been appreciated so we could have prepared him for it or opted out. This affected all of my children. My 1st grader has already said he doesn't want to see that video:(. Please speak up to the school if something bothers you.
Sue Jarrell September 16, 2012 at 11:49 AM
That is really a terrible thing for a young child to watch. It was a terrible thing for us adults to see as it was happening. I can't even imagine what is going through these child's minds right now, after seeing graphic images of the planes hitting the towers, the buildings crumbling, people jumping to their death, and the sirens they heard as rescuers came to help save lives. What is wrong with this picture? I know, no common sense. Put you, as an adult, in a child's life, would you want to see something like that? I don't think so. I think as parents or grandparents, like me, we need to educate these teachers to have compassion for our young minds, not to install hate, fear, or prejudice.
ann schmidt September 16, 2012 at 01:49 PM
As a parent of a 10 and 13 year old, I find it HIGHLY inappropriate for this "teacher" to take it upon his or herself to have such a class! Every Sept.11, we have a talk with our children about the horrid things that happend on this date in 2001. We do not go into major details, but we want them to respect all those who have lost their lives at the hands of such horrible people. It is OUR choice how much is appropriate for our children to know what happend on this date. It is still very raw, and changed our lives forever. And still very hard as an adult to handle, let alone a child. I'm wondering if this was even passed before the principal, and if it was approved, shame on you too! Yes, we need to educate our kids about the bad in this world, and how to improve things, but only at a rate that their minds can handle, without leaving nightmarish scars.
John Stewart September 17, 2012 at 12:29 AM
The video is called 'Remembering September 11th: Holidays for Children, please take a look. Here is the product description: Teachers will welcome a program that carefully addresses the delicate issues raised by the terrorist strikes on September, 11, 2001. The program answers some of the questions of what terrorism is and why the United States was a target. It also heavily focuses on the positive acts that occurred in the days and weeks that followed 9/11/01, including the many heroic acts of bravery that so beautifully depict the American spirit, the revitalized sense of patriotism in the United States, and the increased safety measures intended to protect our nation’s airports and airplanes. The program, designed by a team of child development and educational professionals, including a child psychologist, addresses the emotional reactions that children are likely to have. 23 minutes. Closed-captioned. I find nothing wrong with it and see it to be appropriate.
Proportionate Response September 17, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Never underestimate the dudgeon of America's most ritually-aggrieved class of citizens, parents. If John Stewart's characterization of the video is correct, than this article is fatally factually-challenged. And yet the comments that follow demonstrate the same ignorance that "informed" the article in the first place. Did the author watch the video? If not, why would he feel qualified to comment on its contents? Likewise, it seems like he wants everyone associated with the Easton Area School District to apologize to him, his apparently-traumatized child, and "everyone." Well, speak for yourself, dude. I don't think the district, and certainly not the teachers, owe anyone an apology. Perhaps a high school civics class could use this article to demonstrate the limits of ignorance and outrage as forces for social good (as epitomized by the author and his fellow denigrator of the public discourse, Gambino).
Dino Ciliberti (Editor) September 17, 2012 at 05:46 PM
No, I didn't watch the video. Why would I? I was informed about it from my son, from talking to other parents. Why would any parent want their young child seeing the 9/11 disaster at that age! I have the assignment from what he had to write about what he saw. So I wrote a column based on that.
Dino Ciliberti (Editor) September 17, 2012 at 05:50 PM
And I deleted Gambino's comments. First off, if you're gonna take a shot at someone, use your real name. Secondly, we won't tolerate anyone who is abusive. And thirdly, I've been in this business for 28 years. It's also my opinion; no one has to agree with it!
Proportionate Response September 17, 2012 at 06:10 PM
So, you stand by your son's characterization, and that of other parents (presumably secondhand reflections from their children), and think that's sufficient knowledge of the situation to write about it? For 28 years in journalism, you really ought to bone up on adequate sourcing before tarring a school for its approach to an obvious teachable moment. Did you contact the school? Don't you think a conversation with the teacher would be appropriate before getting the vapors in the local press?
Proportionate Response September 17, 2012 at 06:12 PM
And furthermore, why on earth would you have a picture of the plane hitting the WTC in an article about said image's alleged insensitivity towards young students? Don't the little boys and girls have access to Patch?
Dino Ciliberti (Editor) September 17, 2012 at 06:15 PM
The fact that children watched this video and saw that horror at such a young age and that parents weren't consulted is reason enough for me writing my opinion on it. I guess you think it's ok for 9-year-olds to view that? Tell that to the parents whose children had nightmares.
Proportionate Response September 17, 2012 at 06:19 PM
I watched the Challenger blow up at exactly the same age, and lived to tell. You're still writing about the video as though you know its contents. I don't. I'm saying, before I have seen the video in question, I wouldn't write about its contents. That seems pretty boilerplate journalistic convention. Likewise, a more constructive and mature approach to addressing your perceived problem with the content of a particular lesson, it seems to me, would be to contact the teacher in question.
Jennifer Faria September 17, 2012 at 06:37 PM
This is the real reason why the Towers fell: http://ow.ly/dDXTk
Ken White September 17, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Sorry, childhood development and educational professionals, but if you show a bunch of nine and ten year-olds this film, some of them (many of them) will walk away from school that day convinced that there are bad guys gunning for them. And not just them, but their moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends, favorite relatives and, finally, their country.* Think of it, kids are told from day one that America is the “good guy”, the “good gal.” They go to school one day, are shown a film and 1380 seconds later realize that there are people in the world who don’t think we are all that good. In fact, they think we’re so “not good” that we must be removed from the world, one or two buildings-at-a time. That’s quite a tectonic shift in each child’s world view. Talk about an earthquake! It’s the big one aimed at the little one, smashing, one by one, their pictures of security and predictability to pieces on the floor. Yeah, probably a good idea to give parents a day or two of notice to ready their little ones for such big ones. *Country, if memory serves, comes last to a kid. Whittled down, family, pets and the fun people they know come first. Their favorite possessions are second. And country, in our case America, comes last. That’s not to say that kids don’t love their country because most certainly do. It’s just that they think of country differently than we do. To them, the neighborhood they live and play in is America in its entirety.
Proportionate Response September 17, 2012 at 10:46 PM
It's hard to imagine that boys and girls whose classmates have parents who may be deployed, who have access to the internet or to the television around evening news time, or, for that matter, who have watched any television at all, were unaware of the presence of evil in the world. The basic facts of 9/11 are all around us: on TV, in newspapers, in conversations at dinner, at church, in civic events of remembrance, etc. That students' first exposure to the simple facts of 9/11 might be as a forth grader speaks far more powerfully to a kind of naïveté on the part of parents, than to some sort of implied negligence on the part of educators.
Proportionate Response September 17, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Have you seen the video? Can you speak with any authority about its contents? If not, how is your post not just a form of conjecture?
ben lansing September 18, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Dino, The video was created for 4th graders, im sure the horrible images you speak of aren't in the video. Please find out its true content before assuming what the children saw.
Robert September 18, 2012 at 02:17 AM
By your own admission, your source of information is your 10 year old son. I can't wait to read your riveting editorials on how gross and stupid broccoli is, or that recess and lunch should comprise 6 of the 7 hours of the school day. I do not mean to make light of a sensitive subject, nor do I mean to insult the intelligence of your son. However, to run first to a public forum to post uninformed incendiary attacks on a school district prior to confronting concerns privately, or even attempting to gather ANY relevant information to formulate an opinion from is, at best, grossly irresponsible. I would expect much more from someone who has been in this business for 28 years. Furthermore, although I have not seen the video myself, if the summary of the video as described in "John Stewart's" post is accurate, then I find it deplorably hypocritical that you would select a picture of a plane crashing into the tower to use in this article –something that, if the summary is correct, is far more shocking and offensive than anything your son would have seen in class last week.
Dino Ciliberti September 18, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Robert, I appreciate the personal attacks. Nice that you're not revealing your true identity. I'm sure you don't have children in school or care what they are taught. This is pretty simple people. It doesnt matter whether I saw the video or what the contents were. It matters that any video regarding 9/11 was shown without parental consent. It upset children and it upset parents. Those are the facts and the only facts I needed to know to make an opinion. You don't have to agree. That's your opinion.
Proportionate Response September 18, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Dino, you're telescoping. Robert doesn't care what his putative children are taught in school? More unfounded conjecture, which seems to be the only tool in your journalistic bag of tricks. Did you do any reporting on this subject to try to determine what the children were upset about, or what the thinking was behind presenting an age-appropriate video about 9/11 on, saints alive (!) 9/11? In the article, your hyperbole suggests that teachers "owe everyone" an apology, and are obliged to make a solemn promise never to err (it should be said, in your humble, and largely fact-free opinion) again. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but the quality of thinking and fact-finding that informs it is most certainly subject to scrutiny on the part of the individuals who read it. It is also telling, and you've never addressed this in any of your responses, that you did not first speak with either the principal or teachers involved, prioritizing a hysterical op-ed over constructive involvement in the education of your children. I'm beginning to realize why I read you, not in the Times or the Post, but on Palmer Patch.
Robert September 18, 2012 at 03:35 AM
The premise of your initial editorial was your assumption that there were inappropriate images and "suffering" shown in the video. However, you conceded that it was acceptable to honor the heroism displayed by the figherfighters, policemen, and soldiers, which according to the video summary, was a point of emphasis. Without watching the video, how can you know what was shown and consequently what it is that you are criticizing? Furthermore, in my opinion, there are many more appropriate and effective ways to voice your concerns than to publicly criticize a video and school district before you have all the information from both sides of the story.

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