The challenge for us in the months ahead is to demand that our states follow the President's example and maintain education as a priority and to stress equity and quality in educational improvement. We should ask Washington to go even further than it has so far for the sake of our children and our country's future. Without a commitment to educational improvement, we could win the war on terrorism and lose the future.
"The Meaning of 9/11"In the Jewish Passover dinner called a Seder, the ritual service includes a reading called "The Four Questions." It tells of four different sons who each ask their father a question to get at the meaning of Passover-"Why is this night different from all other nights?" There is a wise son who asks about the significance of the Passover rituals and their importance in our lives. A wicked son asks about Passover in terms of its requirements for others, not for himself or for the collectivity. The simple son is baffled by the uniqueness of the rituals and asks what is all of this? The naÃ¯ve son cannot even formulate a question. The Passover service explains how each child should be answered. In fact, it gives the precise wording of the answer. On 9/11, we were not so fortunate. We were forced to explain to our children things that were incomprehensible to us. What happened? Who did it? Why? What was going to happen? On the subject of who and why, commentators told us the attacks were religious in nature-Muslims against Christians and Jews. Others said no, the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book, speaks positively of Jews and Christians who worship God. It heralds Abraham, Moses, and Jesus as prophets. It proclaims that to kill other persons is to murder humanity. Jihad refers to a defensive effort or struggle, not an offensive religious war. The attacks were a violation of Islamic law. To complicate matters, the attacks were both condemned and celebrated in the Muslim world. We also read that the attack was geopolitical, retribution for housing U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia or the American role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Others denied this, saying if the troops left Saudi Arabia tomorrow and the Palestinians and Israelis signed a peace treaty immediately, the attacks would continue. Voices in the Arab world advanced both positions. We were told the terrorists were fanatics, cowards, criminals. They were martyrs to some and heroes to others. They were the new luddites at war with modernity. They were rabid traditionalists attempting to disrupt the expansion of a global information economy, spreading values and mores they despised. Beyond an attack on American foreign policy and military actions, their terrorism was aimed at American movies, music, publications, and lifestyles which new technologies made easily accessible all around the world. These fundamentalist Muslims believed their historic traditions were being defiled, feared the destruction of their religion, were committed to bringing the mainstream of modernizing society back to the path of righteousness, and were determined to defeat the U.S., seen as leading this revolution. For most of us, it was very difficult to evaluate the varied and conflicting explanations of why the attacks occurred. Beyond the shock we experienced, the reason is that most Americans know little about Islam, Muslims, Jihad, and where Afghanistan is. Schools, for the most part, do not include these subjects in their curricula. As a nation we tend to be ignorant of the Arab and Islamic worlds. For many of us, our understandings are based on little more than childhood readings of fairy tales like Aladdin and Ali Baba; buttressed more recently by news reports of conflicts over oil and recurrent regional violence. We don't know who Muslims are, where they live, or what they believe. As a people, we know little about the world outside our borders and far less about the languages, cultures, histories, and religions of the non-Western world. Our understanding of international politics, economics, and geography is limited. We have learned little about the role of the U.S. abroad or even about our changing economy, demographics, or globalization at home. In this sense, 9/11 pointed out the incompleteness of education in the United States and the need for deeper and fuller knowledge. I am not suggesting some faddish or politically correct revision owing to the September 11th terrorist attacks. My motives are entirely utilitarian. What I am saying is that 9/11 makes clear the U.S. is now inextricably intertwined in a global society. The United States will never again be an island. We need to prepare our children to live in this new world and we are not doing this as well as we can or need to. In times of conflict and war, schools have responded historically with curriculum changes. They have often constrained the curriculum-eliminating subjects deemed unpatriotic. For instance, both World Wars caused the schools to reduce or eliminate the study of German language, literature by German authors, and music by German composers from the curriculum. There has also been a tendency to dehumanize real or potential enemies in our textbooks and our teaching. This was true of the Japanese and the Germans during both World War II and the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba during the Cold War. Schools need to respond very differently in the aftermath of 9/11. The purpose of schooling, K-12, is to provide students with a comprehensive and rigorous general education. In 1981, Ernest Boyer, then President of the Carnegie Foundation, and I wrote a monograph titled Quest for Common Learning, which delineated what we thought that education needed to be. In light of 9/11, I want to revisit this topic. We suggested that general education teach students about the commonalities all people share-the common symbols we use, the heritage we share, the globe we live on together, the groups and institutions that make up our lives, the common activities in which we engage, and the values we share. All students need to be able to communicate with symbols-words, numbers, and graphic images. For the most part, the words we teach students to use tend to be English, Spanish, and French. Recognizing that we need to teach all students to master English, a lesson learned on 9/11 is how important it is to offer our young people non-Western languages as well. In terms of numbers, we teach children subjects varying from addition and subtraction to trigonometry and calculus. All students need to learn something else as well-the application of numbers; the same is true of words, the connotation and denotation of words. In the days and weeks following the World Trade Center attacks, the media were filled with opinions masquerading as facts. Students need to learn the analytic skills to evaluate the uses and abuses of words and numbers. I am talking about students learning to use and interpret graphs, statistics, and percentages. I am speaking of knowing the difference between the use and the misuse and misinterpretation of anecdote, innuendo, and cause and effect. The text for this math or English course might be the daily newspaper. As for the graphic representation of symbols, we need for students to be asked to express their experiences through the arts. We need for them to learn about other cultures through the artworks they produce. Technology makes it possible for students in Kabul, both boys and girls, and New York City to share their worlds through art. Human Heritage All people share a global heritage and history. We have not done well at conveying this to our children. We have for the most part taught them largely about a very small part of the world, Western Europe. What 9/11 makes clear is that if our sons and daughters are going to be able to function in a global society, they need to know about Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America as well. They need to study the changing demographics of our nation, too. In the days after 9/11, there were reports of Arab or Arab-looking people harassed in the United States, even in our schools. This is not only wrong, it shows how little we know about our own country. The population of the U.S. has changed profoundly. Today, there are more Muslims than Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Lutherans in the United States. Our children need to learn about their fellow citizens, about commonality and difference, about respect and diversity. At the earliest ages, they need to see cultures that are different from their own and witness celebrations that go beyond those they celebrate at home. One World We all live on a common globe, which spins around an endless universe. As future citizens, every student needs to know about the scientific realities of that globe, the thin bonds that hold us together biologically, chemically, and physically. They need to understand the impact on the environment of the choices we make, including weapons of mass destruction, war, terrorism, pollution, and hunger. They need to learn there are policy options we can choose from. Our children also need to learn about the place of the United States in that world, in terms of its geography, resources, politics, and economics. I am not suggesting the equivalent of a graduate seminar for our children, merely that from the earliest grades they learn about science, the globe, and the United States' place in it. A lesson of 9/11 is that the United States can never be isolated from the rest of the world again. We are inextricably intertwined in a global society-geographically, politically, economically, environmentally, and ethically. "Intertwined" captures the diversity, yet connectedness of communities, cultures, societies, and nations that share this globe. Our sons and daughters need to understand this. Via the Internet, we can bring the larger world into our schools Groups and Institutions We live our lives in a world of institutions. They are not of our making. We are born into them. In an age in which voting rates and civic participation have declined, 9/11 provides an opportunity to have our children learn about community. Never has there been a more vivid demonstration of the meaning of community than we have seen on our television screens in recent months. Schools have an opportunity to take these experiences and translate them into an education which will help students learn the ways and means of civic participation, the power of dissent, and the manner in which individuals can constructively change our community. Common Activities Each of us lives a life that includes a variety of roles-possibly spouse, parent, neighbor, friend, citizen, worker, player, partner, coper, and child to name just a few. Children need to be prepared for this multiplicity of roles, finding a balance between the giving and taking each entails. In an age in which taking seems to dominate, the World Trade Center disaster has filled our televisions with stories of heroic volunteerism. It provides an opportunity for our children to learn about altruism and the responsibility of service. This is a good time for schools to add vitality to service requirements that have grown dusty and disconnected, to make service not simply an extracurricular activity, but an active part of the curriculum. Ethics and Values 9/11 has been variously portrayed as a clash of values, of good versus evil, of cowardice versus bravery, of lies versus truth. We need to teach our children the difference between truths, facts, ideologies, values, and beliefs. We need to help them recognize each and distinguish between them. We need to help our daughters and sons learn to weigh values and choose between them-good, better, and best. We need to assist them in understanding the difference between minority and majority values, and between absolute and relative values. We need to help them develop a set of values of their own. We need to help them understand tolerance, its limits, and appropriate methods of dissent. Higher Education Colleges and universities have been charged with continuing the general education begun in the schools and adding to that specialized study via a major or concentration. Since the World Trade Center attack, colleges and universities have been scrambling to add curricula and extracurricular activities on the Mideast, Islam, and terrorism. In a year or two, unless the terrorism continues, many of the new courses will fade away. There is a useful faddishness to the college curriculum, such that it expands to cover emerging social events. As student interest declines and enrollments drop, the temporarily popular courses disappear. I believe that 9/11 suggests four elements that might be added to the curriculum more permanently. The first is education for a basic understanding of who Muslims are and what they believe. Traditional stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims are dangerous both domestically and internationally. To teach what Muslims believe, it is important to add the Quran to the Great Books canon all students read in their humanities classes. I suggest this not because it is politically correct, but because it is essential. Other than the Constitution and the Bible, I can't think of many documents that have had a greater impact on this country in the past three decades. Over half of all colleges now have a requirement that students take a course on multicultural issues in order to graduate. These courses, which tend to focus on domestic diversity, should be expanded to include the Islamic world both at home and abroad if our young people are to understand who the Muslim population is. It is also essential that they meet Muslim and Arab people, so that exchange programs which permit students and faculty to study in the U.S. and abroad need to expanded in spite of pressure to contract them after the terrorist attack. The second need is education for citizenship. Issues of the Islamic world and Arab culture have had a profound impact on every U.S. presidency since Jimmy Carter. If Americans are to play a knowledgeable and productive role in civic life, they must know about the issues that bind us and divide us from the Arab and Muslim worlds. Today over a fifth of all colleges have a requirement that students take a course in global studies. If colleges do not have such a requirement, they should think about adopting one and include the Islamic world as a major focus. Academic departments, in areas ranging from English and history to business and health sciences, could augment their offerings to provide majors with courses in this area as well. The third level of need is education of specialists in the Arab and Islamic world. As the United States became immersed in the Vietnam, we discovered there were few Americans who could speak the language or understood the culture. Because we live on a globe in which the U.S. is intertwined with Islamic society, we must prepare a generation of business and government leaders, scholars, technologists, journalists, and experts in every aspect of American life who are specialists in the Muslim world. This will entail developing more research centers, area studies programs in Arab and Islamic studies, and expanding opportunities for students to study Arabic and other languages spoken in Islamic countries. The fourth level of need is the education of international students about the United States. In general, students from abroad, Islamic and Arab students included, come to the U.S. with their own stereotypes and learn about our culture through the media and their daily interactions with American students. Too often what is most apparent are the ways student values and mores clash with those of their home country or religion. International students need a more formal introduction to the U.S.-an orientation course that provides an understanding of democratic institutions and values; their strengths, weaknesses, evolution and aspirations. In the long run, such an education may be America's best war against terrorism. My focus has been wholly on the Arab and Islamic worlds. This is the immediate need. But it would myopic to design college curricula solely in response to the latest terrorist act or foreign policy threat. Which terrorist group will be next, what region of the world? The future requires that the U.S. prepare citizens and experts in the languages, cultures, religions, economics, and social institutions across the globe. The 9/11 Generation In 1998, Jeanette Cureton and I published a book about the attitudes, values, and experiences of today's college students entitled, When Hope and Fear Collide: A Portrait of Today's College Student. We surveyed 25,000 students, 270 chief student affairs officers, and carried out focus group interviews at 28 campuses designed to represent the diversity of American higher education. We found the nation's college students to be a transitional generation torn between doing good and doing well-five-eighths wanted a career that would make a meaningful contribution to society and 75 percent wanted to be very well-off financially. As a group, their characteristics were often conflicting: They were afraid, demanding of change and desirous of security and committed to the American Dream. They were hard-working; tired; and heavy users of alcohol. They were diverse, divided, and optimistic about our collective future. They were pragmatic and career-oriented, as well as altruistic and idealistic. They were socially conscious, consumer-oriented, and disenchanted with politics. The conflicts are a consequence of a generation born in one of those rare times in the history of rapid and profound change. The change is so broad and so deep that there is a sharp break between the old and the new. It is a time of discontinuity. In the history of this country, there have been two such break points. The first was the Industrial Revolution, which began in earnest in the first decades of the 19th century. It brought about a transformation in the United States from an agricultural to an industrial society. For those who lived through it, everything appeared to be in flux. The nation's economy was turbulent and uncertain, with wide swings both up and down. New technologies with the capacity to remake the nation's daily life, ranging from steamboats and canals to railroads and mechanized factories, were burgeoning. Old industries were dying, and new industries were being born. Demographics were shifting dramatically as the population moved west and south, from rural to urban areas. Large numbers of immigrants, with relatively little formal education, were coming to America. All of the country's major social institutions-church, family, government, work, and media-were being transformed. Reflecting on the vastness of the changes, Henry Adams concluded that "the old universe was thrown into the ash heap and a new one created" (Adams,  1931, p.5).
Adams's assessment was very close to the mark. The effects of industrialization have been well documented. Among the consequences were family disorganization, attenuation of kinship ties, and a splintering of connections between generations. Mate selection and marital patterns were retarded. Gender roles changed. Homogeneity gave way to heterogeneity. Apathy and alienation grew. New and higher literacy levels were required to function in society, causing sharp differentiation in the wealth and status of the populace. Mass communication expanded, and isolation within society declined. Interest groups and associations multiplied (Moore, 1963).The second break point or time of discontinuity is occurring now. The United States is currently undergoing profound demographic, economic, global, and technological change. Demographically, the U.S. population is aging, changing color, coming from other countries, and redistributing itself across the country at astounding rates. 9/11 had the effect of raising fears or perhaps additional fears about the new demographics-Arab profiling, fears of sleeper agents, questions about civil liberties, restricting U.S. study by foreign students, and more. Economically, change is occurring at what appears an even quicker pace. In six generations, the nation has shifted from a rural and agrarian society to an urban and industrial nation and then to a suburban and information-based global economy. The signs of the change are all around us: the ailing farms in the heartland, a rust belt dotting the Midwest and East, roller-coastering high-technology centers, and troubled inner cities. 9/11 has made all of this more difficult for young people. They grew up in a strong economy, but hand in hand with the attacks came declining interest rates, an anemic stock market, and the loss of jobs. Globally, the United States has become a part of an interconnected world. Five of the last six presidential elections were determined by events in the Middle East. Creation of jobs in Japan and Korea exacts a price in terms of jobs in New York, Pennsylvania, and California. When countries in central Europe come apart and others in western Europe join together, the stock market plunges and surges. College students of this generation have never participated in a real war. As children, they may have witnessed a several-day war on TV against Iraq. And then terrorism happened at home on 9/11, followed by Anthrax, shoe bombs, and an uncertain fate. Globalization is a much more frightening prospect than it was on September 10th. Technologically, our daily lives are filled with devices and realities that were the stuff of science fiction a few decades ago. My grandparents were born before the airplane was invented, and my children were born after men landed on the moon. This is a dizzying rate of changes. Technology was unquestioningly successful until the dot.com crash of the past two years. Perhaps the clearest symbol of the danger of technology has been three jumbo jets crashing into the largest buildings in the country's financial capital and its principal military complex-a symbol created as a message from the terrorists themselves. The nature and degree of change today is very much like that of the Industrial Revolution. Henry Adams's description of his own times seems an apt characterization of ours as well. However, several important elements might be added to what Adams said. First, the razing of the old order and the building of the new may go on simultaneously, but they are not experienced that way by most people. The emerging order is unknowable and unrecognizable; it is the future. The old order appears to be falling apart; nothing works as well as it used to. The dominant emotion is necessarily one of loss. We can see that today. All of our major social institutions, which were created for an industrial society, now appear to be broken: government, education, manufacturing, health care, the family. The reaction of the nation is not one of potential and promise, but rather of loss and frustration. Danger is all around us. Many of those who died at the World Trade Center were the friends of today's young people, the people who graduated college only a few years before them. Second, we name periods of profound change only in retrospect. During the antebellum period of the 19th century, people did not wake up in the morning and say, "No wonder the old rules seem to have been thrown out and nothing works as well as it used to; it is the Industrial Revolution!" Instead, they were confused, frustrated, angry, lost, flailing, and often failing. It was not until the 1890s that the name Industrial Revolution came to stick. Prior to that time, there was a plethora of possibilities to describe the massive change the nation had been through. Only when the period assumed a single agreed-upon name could the pattern of change be comprehended. For today's college students, this world of change dominates their lives. Even without 9/11, the consequence of rapid social change is a generation straddling two worlds, one dying and another being born. Each makes competing and conflicting demands on today's college generation; they are torn between both. A dying world makes them want security, and a world being born makes urgent their call for change. In the same fashion, pragmatism wrestles with idealism, doing well with doing good, and fear with hope. They are, above all else, a transitional generation, not unlike the young people of Henry Adams's day, and they are experiencing the same symptoms as did those who lived through the Industrial Revolution. The question for us is what effect will 9/11 have upon this generation. The negatives associated with the economy, the war, terrorism, and fears at home could push the current generation sharply in the direction of wanting to do well-make money and seek the good life. On the other hand, a poor economy, war, examples of volunteerism, and national pride have frequently encouraged students to seek to do good. Colleges can have an impact on the direction students move. I would suggest they do this by the speakers they invite to campus, the awards they give, the requirements they attach to financial aid such as service, and the way in which they use campus events. Colleges have a limited number of times in which they truly have the full attention of their students-one is orientation and another is graduation. In both cases, students are scared either because they are beginning or leaving college. In the main, colleges squander these opportunities rather than treating them as the first and last class of a college career and driving home the most important message an institution has to teach. College publications should be treated in the same fashion. What are the major points a college wants to make to its students? Service organizations and student leadership development activities should be encouraged. In addition, the curriculum, particularly general education, should be the primary vehicle for teaching students about hope, responsibility, efficacy, and service. Teachers College In spite of the horror of 9/11, this is one of the moments in which I was proudest to be a member of the Teachers College community. The College closed on September 11th and 12th, but during that time the members of the community took wonderful care of each other, providing help and solace. The food service, the security staff, the physical plant people, the computer information services, and those who staffed the offices worked long, long hours to meet the needs of the College and did so with grace and warmth. I and the other senior staff members spent the day touring the College and the dorms, talking to the members of the community and seeing how we could help. Everyone was crowded into TV rooms or around radios. That evening the dining service provided a free dinner to the entire community. People just wanted to be together. Beyond this, the College engaged in the usual relief activities-volunteer work at the relief centers and the site of the disaster, collecting money and items needed by the volunteers, and giving blood. The feelings of the community were many-gratitude for family members and friends who survived, a wish to be with family far away, profound sadness and shock at the devastation of life and property, and a feeling of impotence at being able to do so little while living on the same island as the suffering and damage. On Thursday, we canceled a scheduled faculty meeting and instead held a community meeting, which was attended by faculty, students, and staff. There was a moment of silence while the college community held hands, a recitation of the names of friends and relatives who were lost or missing, and an open microphone. People from every segment of the college community spoke. A maintenance worker told of working for nine years in the Towers and cleaning up after the last explosion in 1993. He broke into tears when he told us he could not reach many friends. Foreign students told us of bombings in their home countries and the fact that we would go forward. Barry Rosen, who was a hostage from the U.S. embassy in Iran, talked about the fact that terrorists seek to weaken and demoralize you. We must be strong. The husband of a faculty member, who heads the counseling office at Pace University, very near the World Trade Center, told of meeting a young woman that day and asking her how she was doing. She began crying and said she wished she could be with her family. In the middle of that night, he saw her again going into a dormitory being led by a fireman. He went to her and again asked her how she was doing. She burst into a big smile and pointing at the ash-covered fireman, said, "I want you to meet my father." In the days since, we have been providing psychological and grief counseling to the TC community, the local community, the parents of school children, and to organizations such as New York State, the Board of Education, and the city schools. Collections continue. Work with schools and teachers on curriculum is also underway. I cannot even begin to catalog the range of on-going and emerging activities. We are also beginning to hear about relatives, friends and people we know who have been lost. We lost four alumni on 9/11. In the days after the attacks, Professors Barry Farber and George Bonanno worked with Dinelia Rosa, Director of Psychology Consultation Center, to discuss with students in the Clinical Psychology Program how they can best serve the city. Counseling psychology students were given ideas and suggested their own ways on how they can help the community both formally and informally. Professor Bonanno has researched post-traumatic stress and resiliency in traumatic situations, is now heading a study funded by the National Science Foundation that will examine how the survivors of the World Trade Center attack are faring as a result of their experiences on 9/11. On a recent Saturday, Teachers College was filled with educators attending a Teach-In funded by the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation. Details on the Teach-In are in the following section of this report. That event, which attracted more than 500 educators, was so successful, that efforts are continuing to develop a Center for Teaching and Learning in a New Global Environment. That success was due to the hard work of Professors Jim Borland and Nancy Lesko and Heidi Hayes Jacobs, TC alumna and adjunct professor from the Department of Curriculum and Teaching; as well as Barry Rosen, Executive Director of External Affairs and his staff; and the Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation. Members of the Department of Curriculum and Teaching are beginning the planning for a national summit on curriculum and teaching post-9/11. Plans are for a book to be written based on the work done at the summit. Celia Oyler is an Associate Professor in that Department, whose work centers around teaching for democracy, social justice and full inclusion. Since 9/11 she has been collecting curriculum materials for elementary school teachers dealing with Islam, Muslims and anti-racist teaching. Professor Fran Vavrus and Betty Reardon, Director of the Peace Education Program, are working on the creation of a Center for Peace Education that will include the training of teachers and program specialists in peace education along with curriculum development, conferences, and an international Web site that will allow this information to be shared by groups around the world. The Center would also support scholars-in-residence whose specialties relate to peace education. In light of the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the need for that country to rebuild, Teachers College has looked back at a program begun in 1954 known as The Afghan Project, which was responsible for faculty and curriculum development, creating textbooks and other educational materials, and teacher training. Much of what was done in that program has not been used in that country since 1979, and can be useful in rebuilding their educational system today. A casual observation of life in the refugee camps in Pakistan, especially in Jalalabad, reveals that Afghans still hunger for the textbooks that were published in the pre-Taliban period. This information has come to us through various refugee agencies that have been collecting and using the textbooks from TC's archives. It's possible that these textbooks could be the foundation for the youth of a new and thriving Afghanistan. I have often told you the mission of Teachers College can best be described with two Hebrew words-"Tikkun Olam." They mean to repair the world. We are doing this better than I have ever before seen.
Published Sunday, Oct. 2, 2005