Thursday, September 9, 2010

A study of terrorism...

First a bit of background info:
We have something at the gymnasium called "Almen studieforberedelse" (AT) which translated means "general study preparation", but it really is so much more than that!

Third year students take an AT oral exam as a requirement for graduation, but before the AT Exam in the spring of their last year, they have several AT "practice rounds" during the 5 semesters prior to the exam. The idea behind AT is to prepare them to use 2 subjects (from 2 different disciplines) to investigate a particular theme and synthesize their findings. It is an incredible process that prepares them for research studies at the university level....although students (and teachers) grumble about having to do it! It is not really about the subjects they are studying, but more about the analysis methods that they use in each subject.

I am in the middle of an AT unit with both of my 3rd year classes-- one studying the theme of Travel in English & History, and the other is studying the theme of Terrorism in English & History. Both are exciting themes and have so many possibilities; students are able to choose whatever piece(s) of English literature they would like to connect to the theme, as well as all primary & secondary resources that they can connect to History. The options are endless.

I share all of this to explain what brought me to teaching THIS LESSON a few days ago. The class that is studying terrorism is my "Samfundsfag line" (social studies) class. We were talking about terroristic acts from the perspective of those committing them-- trying to understand motivations and intent (which honestly is not a perspective that I, as an American, have really ever stopped to consider)....

Anyway, the dialogue was flowing; the comments were constructive and well-thought out; and I could see that the thought processes were really working during this class. The students were really thinking... Mission Accomplished, right?

However it is not their reaction to the lesson that got to was mine.
We talked about the study of terrorism and how it has really become a topic in schools, the media, churches, politics, etc since that horrible day in 2001, and about how so many people knew nothing about Islam prior to that date, but today those same people THINK they know everything about Islam...

And as we were talking, I felt my chest constrict.
Almost to the point that it was difficult to breathe.
And tears flooded to my eyes.
To the point that I had to stop speaking.
I was shocked at my response.
Shocked at how it still got to me.
Shocked that parts of it are so easy to discuss, but other parts of it still sting.
Especially the part where I flashback to where I was that day.

Interestingly enough, besides English, I was also teaching a brand new course in Wichita Falls, Texas called "World Cultures"-- a study of the world's people... The school was called "Huey", located on the North Side; the students were ones that I had looped with and we were in our 3rd year together; the classroom was at the end of the hall on the top floor; and the year was the one when I had a cast-iron bathtub in my room as an alternative seating option (yes, a bathtub). We had the tv on CNN that morning, as we did every morning as I knew that most of my students (the majority of who IDed as being from poverty) did not watch the news in their homes, so we always started our day with it; they were supposed to write in their journals about any noteworthy items from the day's news...

The news was on.. and Christina G., who was in the bathtub (yes, the tub) with her journal, called our attention to the television.... as it played the first crash into the Twin Towers. We knew about it before the school had even been alerted from downtown... we saw it happen and seconds later, we saw it happen again...

I will never forget that day. Never.

This AT study of terrorism is a worthy topic, but not an easy topic.
And I hope that through this study, my students learn more than just the analytical methods used in History and English.


Anonymous said...

I will never forgot that day either and the people of flight 93 who saved my cousin's life while he was a working in Congress that day. It is sad mark on US history and even sadder that some churches in the US want to have a "Burn the Qu'ran" day on Sept 11.


Anonymous said...

Most subjects are not about facts, but about people and feelings, don't you think?

BABS said...

Terrorism and war are one and the same. Both violent,both desperate and both with their own code of conduct and agendas. Murder is crass, war is obscene, terrorism is war.

What happened in New York in 2001, those terrible murders, was heartbreaking and awful. As heartbreaking and awful as the lives lost all over the world in senseless acts of murder.

Who has the right to take a life in anything but mercy?