Albany High School Honors History teacher Will Thomas says that state standards call for two history classes with 9-11 themes to be taught in Georgia's high schools.
ALBANY — When the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, it not only changed the American psyche, it also altered the way history is taught in the nation’s schools.
Suddenly, the spotlight shone on Islam, terrorism and middle eastern history.
“There is absolutely no doubt that 9/11 made people take a look at Islam, the forces that led up to the attacks and the long hard road we were facing dealing with the aftermath.” Albany State University history professor Donald Kagay said. “History departments at the bigger universities around the country began teaching about Islam. That spun off little subsets of classes teaching the finer points of Islam.
“The attacks changed everything.”
Darton College political science professor Roger Marietta agrees.
“There is much more talk on the college level now about national security and the war on terror,” Marietta said. “Before 9/11 we taught about the Cold War; post 9/11 we now teach about the War on Terror.”
Marietta said his students are more interested about the war on terror more than past conflicts.
“They (students) are very interested because it is real to them,” Marietta said. “Look at the voting numbers for kids ages 18 to 24, they’ve risen significantly. Many of those same kids have friends who are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, or served themselves.
“It’s real and very personal to them because the main body of our people who are doing the fighting are between the ages of 18 and 24. 9-11 is deeply ingrained in college curriculums across the country.”
The events of that day have also worked their way into the nation’s secondary schools.
At Deerfield-Windsor, upper-middle school director Will Kesler thinks the attacks spurred additions to secondary and post-secondary curriculums all over the United States.
“This (the attacks) was such a unique event in American history in that we were not attacked by a sovereign nation, but rather we were attacked by an ideology,” Kesler said. “The attacks made everyone take a look at America’s place in the world and we because more aware of other cultures. A lot of high school which had toyed with the idea of teaching Middle Eastern History or World Religion now had even more reason to teach and study those subjects.”
The state’s public schools also incorporate 9-11 into their curriculums.
“I try to get students to see the conceptual side of it first focusing on the Georgia Performance Standard Theme of ‘Conflict Resolution,’ ” Albany High Honors History teacher Will Thomas said.”I ask students, ‘Is is always good to die for what you believe in?’ I also ask students to think about, ‘Is war necessary to achieve peace?’ My aim is to get the students to arrive at their own conclusions using the evidence available.
“In another class we ask our students to describe the tools used to carry out U.S. foreign policy — diplomacy, economic, military and humanitarian aid, treaties, sanctions and military intervention.”
ASU’s Kagay thinks the curriculum changes are here to stay.
“The students are very interested, they say ‘let’s get up to date,’ ” Kagay said. “9/11 was such a strong development it now has its own subset in world history.”
At Albany High, Thomas is hoping his students understand the threat of terrorism to their way of life.
“I want students to have a greater sense of patriotism, fully understand the threat of terrorism not only to our safety but also to democracy, and to have an everlasting respect for the lives lost and the lives that defend our freedom everyday,” Thomas said.