SFA professor says teaching 9/11 to younger generations presents unique challenges

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 6:58 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - The memory of 9/11 has remained with many Americans. However, some educators say that there are challenges in attempting to teach about that day to younger generations who have no memory of it.

For the 20-something or younger students on college campuses, remembering 9-11 is impossible.

“Yeah, nothing,” said history major Mary Piro, with fellow student, Hunter Bailey agreeing.

They were only months old when 9/11 happened. Their earliest recollections started with family and kids shows.

“My family went to New York in August of 2001 and there are pictures of my siblings in front of the trade center,” said Piro. Bailey added, “And like on 9/11 there would be like an informational education program that would come on like on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon.”

Later the two went to the same Texas high school together. Texas is one of 14 states that require 9/11 instruction in public schools.

Mary said being shown each year footage of the attack on the world trade center was first frightening, and then, ineffective. “I think their intentions were to show us how horrific it was, but when you show that to 14-year-olds continuously it desensitizing them to what they’re seeing,” said Piro. “So after a while it was like, ‘it’s 9/11 again. We’re going to have to watch the video of the man falling from the towers to his death. We’re going to have to see that again’. And you just kind of would block it out. So, I didn’t think it was a very good approach.”

At the college level, 9/11 instruction has evolved, according to SFA history professor Court Carney.

“In 2001 I was actually in the college classroom that night and from that point, for the next few years there was sort of a communal conversation. We all experienced it,” said Carney.

Today, students are taught more of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of 9/11.

“We are having to do more content, perhaps, than what we would have done 20 years ago,” said Carney.

To convey the emotion and reactions following 9/11, Carney’s teaching tools are record albums and CDs.

Bailey, a musician and music minor gravitated to the CD’s Carney pulled out of a cabinet.

“It is the tool that I go to, to get students engaged,” said the professor.

“At least in our generation, is with music in everything, you know. It just kinda shows exactly the kind of feelings that I have where it’s like this was an event that happened, that was horrible,” said Piro.

“There’s a broad range of genres that have discussed it in some way, in some form within their music, can be a way for people to connect to it in a different way,” said Bailey.

And it’s that connection, no matter how it’s achieved, which makes 9/11 instruction so important for generations to come.

One day soon, Piro and Bailey may themselves be teaching or researching 9/11 for others.

Bailey plans to go to graduate school with the goal of becoming a history professor.

And Mary Piro will also enter graduate school with her future set on becoming a museum researcher.

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