The 9/11 attacks are a commonly required topic in schools – they are specifically mentioned in 21 states' official standards for social studies – but textbooks are often limited in space, so many have little meaningful detail about the actual attack, writes co-author Jeremy Stoddard, associate professor at the William & Mary School of Education.
Efforts to put the events in a larger context, such as domestic or international terrorism, are also hit-and-miss, says Mr. Stoddard. For example, one text defines terrorism as attacks on civilians, yet cites the attack on the USS Cole – a military target – as an example.
Eschewing textbooks as ineffective, many teachers have turned to an ample supply of supplemental materials from a wealth of sources, says Stoddard. “These don’t have to pass state textbook scrutiny and aren’t constrained by the space restrictions of official textbooks.”
Often, these materials tend to reflect the concerns of the organization producing them, he says. For example, a group called Facing History and Ourselves is focused on tolerance and Holocaust work, “so the materials dwell on developing tolerance towards others, in particular Muslims." Another group, Choices for the 21st Century, has developed extensive materials for teaching about 9/11 from a foreign policy perspective.