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Editorial: Greenfield doing its part to educate youth on 9/11

  • Ludwig Camacho, 8, left, and Annbelle Camacho, 5, of West Sacramento, view the Twin Towers site at the September 11 Memorial on Jefferson Blvd and South River Road in West Sacramento, California. TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE


Thursday, May 04, 2017

It turns out that recent history can be
history, if you are young enough.

Greenfield Middle School administrators realized this when National Public Radio reporters came into the school last fall to ask students about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and found local students — like
their peers across the nation — knew little about the pivotal moment in modern American history.

One seventh-grader, who hadn’t been born yet in 2001, was quoted in the NPR piece that ran on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the attacks, saying “I don’t know about it, so I don’t know how to feel about it.”

So, Assistant Principal Angela Ruggeri has launched an effort to rectify that shortcoming in the history lessons taught at the middle school. And in particular, this month, the town’s middle schoolers will all read “Towers Falling,” a novel by Jewell Parker Rhodes, written from the perspective of a fifth-grader about the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City on that awful morning.

Ruggeri is inviting parents and all Greenfield residents to read along with the students to help spark conversation and to help teach this post 9/11 generation about the attacks that seemed to draw America into an ongoing “war on terror.” The book will be available for purchase at World Eye Bookshop with a 15 percent discount.

At the time NPR came into Greenfield Middle School, Ruggeri and Principal Gary Tashjian had already decided they would have their students read the book. They just didn’t realize the how appropriate it would be and how much education on 9/11 was needed, especially as teens are subjected to news every day about wars in the Middle East, and terror attacks or threats here, in Europe and the Middle East.

Students will learn about 9/11 with supplemental readings, like Jim O’Connor’s “What Were the Twin Towers?” Parents will also be provided with material to help inform them of what their children are learning and to offer advice on how to discuss the subject.

The age-appropriate book will be read over the course of five weeks, culminating with student projects on “What it means to be an American.” Author Rhodes is expected to come to Greenfield for a reading.

The book sidesteps politics, Ruggeri says, but addresses broader themes of culture and identity, like diversity in America — themes that resonate through events today as we watch a new administration grapple with complicated foreign policy, immigration and refugee issues.

All students will have their own copy of the book. The time taken during the school day to read the book, whether it be in groups or pairs or independent reading, is made possible with the school’s Expanded Learning Time grant. It’s wonderful to see the enrichment time used for such a worthwhile program.

We applaud Ruggeri’s plan to turn the discussion to a broader theme of cultural inclusiveness in a school that has many nationalities represented.

“Hopefully, there’ll be a lot of opportunities for kids to share their customs and traditions with each other and hopefully for students to gain better understandings of each other,” Ruggeri said.

Those lessons are precisely what the students — and the world — need to bind the wounds of 9/11 and move toward the kind of peace that only comes through mutual respect.