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Ten years after terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the profound impact on the United States is not hard to see, from heightened domestic-security measures to the U.S. role in conflicts deemed part of a war on terror. What's less obvious is how the attacks have filtered into American classrooms.
Some observers and educators suggest the effects on instruction are generally at the margins, that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City, suburban Washington, and southwest Pennsylvania appear to get little or no attention in most social studies classes.
In fact, fewer than half the states explicitly identify the 9/11 attacks in their high school standards for social studies, according to a forthcoming study.
Some teachers, however, have worked hard to better educate both themselves and their students about issues related to 9/11 and its aftermath. Beyond the events of the day, they've sought to promote a deeper understanding of the Middle East, U.S. foreign policy in that region, or—amid stereotypes some students bring to school equating Muslims with terrorists—the diversity of the Islamic faith and cultures around the globe.
"It is, for better or worse, one of the defining moments of contemporary history," said Clifford Chanin, the acting education director for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, in New York City, which has developed many resources for schools. "I think it is essential that the event be studied and understood. ... It's now a factor in what the world has become and what it will become. You've got to prepare students for some relationship with 9/11 and its consequences." . . .