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Thread: NJ Educators Prepare 9/11 Curriculum

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    NJ Educators Prepare 9/11 Curriculum

    NJ Educators Prepare 9/11 Curriculum

    http://www.baristanet.com/2008/11/nj...11_curricu.php

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    New Jersey took the nation's lead last week as a group of teachers met to begin the process of designing a school curriculum addressing terrorism, and the impact of September 11. The sensitive topic led to many questions over how the information should be presented. From The Star Ledger:
    Often at the center of the maelstrom was Paul Winkler, the director of the state's Commission on Holocaust Education, which wrote the Holocaust curriculum and is spearheading this initiative. It touched on a central question throughout the weekend of how to approach different subjects with different ages.

    Other topics drew equally fragile discussions, with teachers trying to straddle the lines on how to teach about al Qaeda terrorists and those from on our own soil, be they bombers in Oklahoma City or the Birmingham church. And how should early acts of Revolutionary War aggression like the Boston Tea Party be characterized?

    A powerful force in the room was Mary Ellen Salamone, a North Caldwell mother of three whose husband died in the World Trade Center.

    In the years since, Salamone has been outspoken about how the attacks are taught in schools, and the group Families of Sept. 11th is a third partner in the curriculum effort.

    "You don't want so much critical thinking that we forget the peaceful means that should be favored over terrorism," Salamone said. "Shouldn't we also draw contrasts to all the means of resolution?"
    A final teacher's document, for use in elementary, middle and high schools, is expected to be ready by 2010, but will be a guide rather than required teaching.

    Meanwhile, "security drills" may soon be added to fire drills in New Jersey schools.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Educators convene about a curriculum on Sept. 11

    http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/200...ut_a_curr.html

    by John Mooney/The Star-Ledger
    11/25/2008

    Bunkered in a Trenton hotel conference room on a rainy Saturday afternoon, the conversation among an eclectic mix of New Jersey educators soon turned to terrorism.

    The teachers around the paper-strewn table knew it was the diciest subject of the day, as they began work on a curriculum for teaching about the events of 9/11 and how they affected the nation and world.

    What are the causes of terrorism and how is it even defined?

    In the case of the hijackers who hit New York City and Washington in 2001, how much should be included of the historical context behind what fed their extremism?

    "We certainly don't want to confuse causes with excuses," said Helen Simpkins, a retired Vernon educator who helped coordinate the work. "We just want to explain what got them to that point."

    More than a dozen teachers and other educators huddled last weekend at the Trenton Marriott to begin the grunt work in the state's plan to provide teachers a comprehensive framework for addressing the 2001 attacks in their classrooms. A final document -- complete with resource guide and lesson plans for elementary, middle and high schools -- is slated for use in 2010.

    The first such state-sponsored effort in the nation, the new curriculum will not be required teaching. Instead it will follow New Jersey's model Holocaust curriculum as an unsentimental and objective guidepost for addressing what can be a grueling topic.

    Suggested lessons, varying with the different ages being taught, would cover everything from hate and human nature to world and religious history to issues of grieving and remembrance.

    "You could teach a two-semester course on all of this," said Mary Vazquez, a middle school teacher from Millburn. "But most teachers will take away what they want to use.

    "The problem is most teachers just don't know how to approach it at all," she continued. "But it's like when you are talking about death (with students) ... It's uncomfortable, but you still need to tell them."

    In a kickoff event this summer at the Liberty Science Center, a co-sponsor of the effort, organizers said they expected to have much of the work completed by next fall, when some lessons will be tested in select classes.

    The work got started last weekend, with teachers who had barely met before Friday evening working in teams to brainstorm ideas. They posted and re-posted different classroom themes on giant chart paper, jotting changes in colored marker until there was almost no space left to scribble in.

    Often at the center of the maelstrom was Paul Winkler, the director of the state's Commission on Holocaust Education, which wrote the Holocaust curriculum and is spearheading this initiative.

    "Hold it, guys, let's bring it together," Winkler said at one lively juncture, his arms outstretched like a traffic cop.

    The topic was whether to even include the word "terrorism" in the title of one unit for fear of scaring off teachers in the earliest grades, whom they still want to include with lessons on bullying and hate.

    It touched on a central question throughout the weekend of how to approach different subjects with different ages.

    "If I'm an elementary school teacher, I'd see the word terrorism and skip right over the unit," said Peppy Margolis, director of a teacher outreach center at Raritan Valley Community College.

    Other topics drew equally fragile discussions, with teachers trying to straddle the lines on how to teach about al Qaeda terrorists and those from on our own soil, be they bombers in Oklahoma City or the Birmingham church. And how should early acts of Revolutionary War aggression like the Boston Tea Party be characterized?

    "Most of all, we want our students to be critical thinkers on all of this," said Reba Petraitis, a social studies teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit.

    A powerful force in the room was Mary Ellen Salamone, a North Caldwell mother of three whose husband died in the World Trade Center.

    In the years since, Salamone has been outspoken about how the attacks are taught in schools, and the group Families of Sept. 11th is a third partner in the curriculum effort.

    "You don't want so much critical thinking that we forget the peaceful means that should be favored over terrorism," Salamone said. "Shouldn't we also draw contrasts to all the means of resolution?"

    As the afternoon wound down and the teachers were offered a break before dinner, several stayed in the conference room to continue the discussion. They spoke of the gravity and honor they felt being asked to participate in the curriculum effort, which next will move to devising actual lesson plans by spring.

    Earlier in the day, a Holocaust survivor spoke to the group about the tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis -- and how important it was to keep their stories alive.

    "It is very important work you are doing here," said Shelly Zeiger, a Holocaust commission member. "How this is presented to the kids of the future, it will be very important to what it ends up meaning to all of us."
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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