Teaching beyond September 11

This month, educators will have to consider how they discuss the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with students who have no living memory of that day or the events that unfolded in the aftermath.

Drawing of five people, one wearing a hijab, another wearing a turban, with the word JUSTICE written at the bottom.
Image: Nadia Hafid/Penn GSE

Teaching the history of that Tuesday is important. But Penn Graduate School of Education’s Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher says the lesson shouldn’t stop with the horrors of the plane crashes or the heroics of the first responders. Rather, this is a chance for students to examine how 9/11 has shaped much of the last two decades, in America and around the world.

Ghaffar-Kucher and a team of educators, scholars, and community activist leaders created the Teaching Beyond September 11 curriculum project to help deepen students’ understandings of how the attacks continue to reverberate in communities across the globe.

The curriculum, aimed at high school and college students, features 20 modules, each grounded in a year between 2001 and 2021, exploring themes like social justice, representation, public opinion, democracy, and U.S. foreign and domestic policy. Teachers may pick and choose which modules they wish to teach; further, the lessons within the modules can be taught sequentially or individually. And the curriculum is designed to take these conversations beyond social studies classrooms, with ideas for teaching in literature, art, and other subject areas. To receive new modules as they are released, sign up for the Teaching Beyond September 11 modules.

Drawing from the curriculum, Ghaffar-Kucher offers suggestions for how you can broaden lessons related to September 11, which include discussing civil liberties, addressing Islamophobia, and reflection on media representation.

Read more at Penn GSE.