Sunday, September 11, 2016

9.11 Fifteen Years Later: Keeping It Real

It's hard to fathom that 9.11 was 15 years ago. I won't go into where I was that day, what I did, or how it impacted me, as I've written about that before. This year, I will just say that it is hitting me that we now have newly minted adults, 18 years old, in this country, who were three years old at the time, in 2001. They don't remember.

It is hitting me that, the older you get, the more you understand the importance of history, and that history is real. It isn't just a bunch of books about dead white men who fought wars, which is how it seemed to me as a child. I thought history class was the most boring, removed-from-reality, dry subject going. You see, it is so important to have a good teacher. It is so important, especially for young people who haven't lived through that much "history", to have teachers who help them understand that this stuff really happened, this was living, breathing, real stuff. And we need to learn from it.

As I got older, I did have better teachers and I did have a great history teacher and I was totally absorbed by the class and learned a lot (this was now 10th or 11th grade, by that time). I learned about the Holocaust and was horrified. There were films. Horrible, awful films. That made it more real. More real than the books about dead white men fighting far off, long ago wars that I read about in elementary school and that seemed as flat and one-dimensional as the pages I was reading. It's all about how the books are WRITTEN, too. I loved reading as a child and I have an extraordinarily vivid imagination. Had the books been written better, I would have been interested, I would have been gripped, I would have maybe understood more that this was real stuff that happened, and it was relevant to me somehow. But in elementary school, like I said, I thought history was boring, a bunch of dry, lifeless dates and facts, and all about war and white men conquering stuff and I'd rather be outside playing.

There will be more than books about 9.11. There are videos. They make it more real. Even when everyone who lived through 9.11, all of us, are dead, the videos will likely still be around. And the museum, the memorial. But we still need good teachers for history. We still need teachers that help put things in context, that make history come alive instead of seeming like a bunch of dry, faraway dates and facts on a page, and that help children understand how real things that happened before they were born were to the people living then. And how those people were just like them. And last but not least, how human history tends to repeat itself, unless we learn.

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