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Teaching About September 11

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on
September 11, 2001, gave rise to the following discussion of how
to deal with these events in Women's Studies classes, as well as to
a query a few weeks later concerning suggested readings on the topic
Women, War, and Peace.  For additional WMST-L files available on the
Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.

Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 06:46:00 -0500
From: AnaLouise Keating <zami @ MINDSPRING.COM>
Subject: Discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the Classroom
Hello Everyone,

I'm interested in hearing how others are teaching about--or maybe just
dealing w/--Tuesday's tragedies in their women's studies
classrooms--especially in introductory courses. I can't just proceed w/
"business as usual," but frankly I'm uncertain about how to explore it
(especially with undergraduate students who seem to exhibit knee-jerk
reactions) & I'd very much like to know what others are doing.

Many thanks,

AnaLouise Keating, Ph.D.
Women's Studies
Texas Woman's University
P.O. Box 425557
Denton, TX  76204-5557
Phone (W) 940/898-2129; (H) 940/535-1745
Fax: 940/898-2101
Email: zami  @  mindspring.com

"You must act as if it is impossible to fail."--Ashanti Proverb
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 08:36:11 -0400
From: sjacobso <sjacobso @ BROCKPORT.EDU>
Subject: Re: Discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the Classroom
i have not yet met with my intro class, but my feminist theory class met
yesterday and they were deeply moved -- two of them had family members who
worked at the world trade center, a couple had partners that had been called
into service, but in general there was an overwhelming sense of loss and
compassion.  there was also a pervasive sense of helplessness.  this is where
we focused our energy on overcoming this sense of helplessness to do anything
about the situation because it was so big.  they generated some great ideas of
things that they could do to make a difference.  one of the things that they
decided to do is to work as a group to compile a list of places that were
organizing the disaster response and what each organizatino needed.  then they
are going to advertise around campus letting people know that we are
collecting those items to go to these organizations.  they also talked about
building a card of encouragement that the members of our campus community
could sign and on which they could write their prayers and blessings for all
who have been affected by this tragedy.

tonight in my sex and culture class we were scheduled to talk about power,
violence and states of conflict -- we will process how people are emotionally,
and also use this tragedy as a point of departure for analysis

Honesty is more than just not being dishonest.  It is an
active choice to be responsible for the choices we make
before we act upon them so that we can stand up for them
and not be tempted to be dishonest.
Sharon Jacobson, Ed. D.
SUNY Brockport
Women's Studies Program
Brockport, NY 14420
sjacobso  @  brockport.edu
(716) 395-5700 (office)
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 08:56:00 -0400
From: Laurie Finke <finkel @ KENYON.EDU>
Subject: Re: Discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the Classroom
AnaLouise, you raise a good question here and I was just sitting in my
office thinking about it.  Tuesday when I taught my intro class we had just
heard the first story and weren't really sure what was going one.  By noon
our president had cancelled all classes and activities.  Today we are back
to normal but what does that mean.  Serendipitously, I am j ust beginning to
teach a segment of the course on women's work during WWII (Rosie the
Riveter). In their reaction paper student after student has compared what
they were reading about (a lot of women's first reactions to Pearl Harbor)
to their own reactions Tuesday.  They were seeing their stories in the
stories they were reading.   I will probably use that as a jumping off
point, though the teacher in me wants to make sure I get through  my
syllabus as well.

Another thing I thought of thinking through with my students, though it may
be just too raw right now to do, is to ask them to look at the various roles
being assigned in the media to various people. When the media highlight
individuals through interviews or closeups, who are they and what roles are
they assigned?  For instance I noticed that when the newscasters are
interviewing survivors of victims they are almost always female.  The
"heroes" --the firefighters and rescue workers, those on the planes--are
almost invariably male (though I have seen female rescue workers in the
background, none to m y knowledge have been interviewed).   I don't know if
this would be fruitful to talk about or not but as I get saturated with the
media stuff, that's where my brain keeps turning.

But at this point emotions may simply be too raw to process anything.

Laurie Finke
finkel  @  kenyon.edu
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 09:26:28 -0400
From: janet hagen <jhag6459 @ POSTOFFICE.URI.EDU>
Subject: Classroom After Tuesday's Tragedies
In my Intro. to WMS class we first met on Tuesday while the attacks were
happening. We listened to the news and I simply let my students talk as we
all tried to process the information. Today we are scheduled to talk about
how the personal is political and the relevancy of listening to individual
women's stories across cultures in- and outside of the U.S. to eliminate our
prejudices and knee-jerk reactions that lead to the destructive binary of
"them" vs. "us." To add to our discussion, because of what is happening
politically in reference to Afghanistan, I collected information off of the
Feminist Majority website on gender apartheid in Afghanistan and I am going
to hand out information on the Taliban, since so much of the political
discussion focuses on that area of the world and in particular with
reference to the Taliban. From my experience students are completely unaware
of what is happening to women and girls in Afghanistan and by educating them
on Afghanistan's history and the uprising of the Taliban I believe they can
get a better sense of just how complicated this situation is and that there
are innocent Arabs and Muslims who are being hurt and "terrorized" too, so
we really need to think about how our government should be approaching this


Janet Hagen
Department of English and Women's Studies Program
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02882
jhag6459  @  postoffice.uri.edu
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 09:10:11 -0500
From: Deborah Zelli <Zellideb @ ESUMAIL.EMPORIA.EDU>
Subject: Tuesday's events
Tuesday morning my 9:30 class was a global issues class and - by
serendipity purely - I had prepared a lecture on what Islam really
is about and how that compares to the way it is portrayed in the
Western media.  Things had just started to happen but already
everyone - including my students - were making assumptions about it
being Islamic fundamentalists.  We took some time to talk about the
tragedy and then we started looking for examples of the ideas in the
lectures in the ongoing media coverage.  This morning we will
revisit this issue and talk about Bush's rhetoric as well.

Deborah Zelli, Phd
Emporia State University - Dept of Sociology and Anthropology
zellideb  @  emporia.edu
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 09:20:27 -0500
From: Christine Smith <casmith @ MNSTATE.EDU>
Subject: Re: Discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the Classroom
I am meeting this morning with my Intro to WS class.  I intend to talk
to them about the realities of women in Afghanistan.  Since there seems
to be alot of talk that this may have been orchestrated by Osama Bin
Ladan, I think it is very important to make salient who could be a
target of our wrath--some of the least powerful people on earth.

I've also talked a bit about what war often means for women--and the
race and social class issues, like who starts the wars, and who fights
them.   Additionally, terrorists are rarely women.  These lead to
discussions of power.

christine smith
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 09:13:51 -0500
From: Ada Cheng <shujuadacheng @ HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: Discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the Classroom
I teach at the sociology department and I am teaching intro to sociology and
race/ethnic relations this quarter. We also discussed Tuesday's tragedy in
both classes yesterday. I was impressed with the multiple issues and
readings students brought into the classroom.  However, I had incredibly
strong nationalist sentiments in classes. To be honest, I am still puzzled
as to how to handle these hightened emotions, particularly as a foreigner.
In both classes, some students focused on the power status of US and the
implications of this tragedy to its position as the most powerful country in
the world. They also mentioned the repetively shown clip of Palestinians
celebrating and expressed their disgust. In my race/ethnic relations,
students expressed their strong support for military actions. One student
focused on the oppression of Jewish people, named all Arabs/Muslims
terrorists, and supported the government to take military actions against
the Middle East and the perpetrators. I don't know if students heard what I
was trying to say. I found it difficult to compel students to read the media
critically at this emotional period of time, particularly in the aspect of
problematic protrayal of Arabs/Muslims, meanings of terrorism, and the
construction of nationalist sentiments. I found it difficult to discuss the
history of US foreign policy in an effective way in the face of this
tragedy. I also felt that my own position as a foreigner put me in an
awakward position, which I could not quite name it as this point. I am still

Ada Cheng

Ada Cheng, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
DePaul University
990 W. Fullerton Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
TEL: 773-325-4856 (o)
FAX: 773-325-7821 (o)
Email: scheng1  @  depaul.edu
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 10:38:08 -0400
From: Betsy Eudey <BEUDEY @ GW.USCS.EDU>
Subject: reactions to tuesday
Like others, I was in class when the attacks occurred, and only
learned about the developments afterwards.  As we met today, I too
addressed the status of women in the Taliban, and the role(s) of
women in the incidents, media coverage, and emergency response to
the crises.  Further, we had some important discussion about the
difference between activism and terrorism - drawing upon this
situation, as well as groups within the US who have at times
"crossed the line" while acting upon ideological commitments
(operation rescue, etc).  Having spent so much time talking about
women's studies' grounding in activist work, it was important to
discuss how one goes about "revolutionary change," and the means by
which individuals can justify actions for a perceived "greater
good." Since I require a "community impact project" in the course
(note: my campus doesn't like me using the term "activist project"),
this was an important conversation to have had. 

Betsy Eudey, PhD
Director, Center for Women's Studies and Programs
Horace C. Smith Bldg, Room 101
800 University Way,  Spartanburg, SC 29303
(864) 503-5724 (voice)   (864) 503-5709 (fax)
beudey  @  gw.uscs.edu      www.uscs.edu/~women
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 10:41:56 -0400
From: "Oboler, Regina" <roboler @ URSINUS.EDU>
Subject: Re: Discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the Classroom
>> They also mentioned the repetively shown clip of
>>Palestinians celebrating and expressed their disgust.

>>named all Arabs/Muslims terrorists, and supported the
>>government to take military actions against the
>>Middle East and the perpetrators. I don't know if
>>students heard what I was trying to say. I found it
>>difficult to compel students to read the media
>>critically at this emotional period of time,
>>particularly in the aspect of problematic protrayal
>>of Arabs/Muslims

Some of you may be on the Portside list.  They sent out a long piece putting
together many reports of Arab/Muslim condemnations of Tuesday's terrorist
actions, called something like "The Palestinian Response:  Another View."  I
think this piece will be very helpful in responding to students who express
outrage at the frequently-shown Palestinian celebration scenes, and I would
be glad to forward it to whoever would like it (or to the entire list if I
receive an overwhelming number of requests).

This situation is a very graphic illustration of how what we see on the news
is only a slice of reality, chosen for specific purposes....

  -- Gina
Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 23:06:53 -0400
From: Rosa Maria Pegueros <rpe2836u @ POSTOFFICE.URI.EDU>
Subject: Re: Discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the Classroom
My women's studies class meets on MOnday nights, so I wasn't teaching in
that context.
I taught three classes yesterday: Two sections of "Introduction to Latin
American Civilizations," (45 students each) and one section of "Central
American and Caribbean Unrest and Revolutions." (35 students)
Many of the students have relatives or friends who are connected in some
way to the WTC towers so there was a high degree of anxiety in the room.

I didn't know if they would be anxious to discuss it or if we could just
mention it and go on. I brought a letter from a rabbi-friend of mine who
urged people to take time to appreciate the people and things around us:
Smell a flower, that sort of thing. I also had a letter from our university
president saying that the activities of the university would continue as
usual because it is important for us to be together as a community.

Well, the students wanted to talk so we spent all three sessions discussing
the tragedy. Some talked about retaliation.  I felt that as a teacher, the
questions I should raise included, "Retaliate against whom?"
How do we retailiate without killing scores of innocent people? Taking
Saddam Hussein as a an example--the U.S. spent a fortune on defeating him
and trying to hunt him down and he has eluded those who would "remove him."

How do we express our anger and sorrow without scapegoating particular
groups.  I reminded them that in the Oklahoma case, people immediately
started screaming about "Arabs," and learned that it was really a white
racist extremist. So we must be careful not to scapegoat.  I also told them
that they were educated people and that they had a responsibility when,
upon hearing someone in a group start ranting about Arabs or Muslims, or
whatever, to be the reality check for the group; to point out that only a
small number of extremists commit such barbarities, and that there are
extremists in every group. I also took the opportunity to bring in a
discussion of the Taliban's treatment of women, and to talk about religious
fundamentalism.  The most important discussion was of scapegoating.

Rosa Maria Pegueros, J.D., Ph.D.
Women's Studies Program &       Washburn Hall, 217C
Department of History           E-mail:
University of Rhode Island      <rpe2836u  @  postoffice.uri.edu>
80 Upper College Road, Suite 3  Telephone: (401) 874-4092
Kingston, RI 02881                    Fax: (401) 874-2595

"I have learned from my teachers and from my colleagues. But
I have learned the most from my students." --Rabbi Hanina
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 09:34:43 -0400
From: Deborah Louis <louis @ UMBC.EDU>
Subject: Re: Discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the Classroom
i spent most of yesterday revising all three courses i'm teaching (intro
to american govt, intro to sociology, and social problems) to focus on
these events through the semester--and meet with two of them for the
first time since last week this afternoon--fundamental changes are:

1) there is now just ONE term paper topic, as opposed to an array of

2) THE LION'S GAME (nelson demille) is now required reading by the

3) all three will now spend more time on domestic and global
racism/poverty/terrorism sections of the curricula than originally

4) i have added the Palestinian Council for Restitution and Reparations
website to the web pages for the courses (for anyone who hasn't gotten
this morning's reports yet, arab- and arab-looking people are being
pulled out of cars and beaten up, children assaulted on the way to
school--a number of muslim private schools remain closed due to fears of
bombing etc etc)...

i plan to spend these first classes assessing the emotional and
attitudinal status of the groups, allowing for free-ranging (but
respectful) exchange and relating of personal stories, and then tying
whatever i get back into the subject matter for the week, creating a
framework for ongoing research and discussion about the tragedy. ..

a few academics on other networks have reported meeting apathy--i.e.
"this has nothing to do with me and who cares" responses--i don't know
if what they are seeing may rather be shock/denial or "really" apathy,
but if i pick up on the "who cares" kind of sentiment i plan on guiding
the conversation towards what this DOES mean for ALL of us, and the
positive and negative potentials for what everyday life will be in both
immediate and long-range terms...

i wish everyone lots of luck with this, and with using our collective
intuitions to figure out how to "get" this as an opportunity to deal
directly with some fundamental and essential issues it is usually
difficult to get students interested in/willing to talk about...

debbie <louis  @  umbc.edu>
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 20:28:52 -0300
From: Cecilia Maria Barcellar Sardenberg <cecisard @ UFBA.BR>
Subject: Re: Discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the Classroom
Dear friends:

I have a suggestion for discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the classroom. Why
not show some movies (all based on real facts) that portray US involvement
in subversive operations in Latin America which resulted in the killings of
hundreds/thousands of people?  For example: "Missing" (it shows US
involvement in the military takeover in Chile; the scene in the National
Soccer Stadium and the one in the Morgue are particularly striking), or
"State of Siege" (it depicts US involvement in the training of police
military men in Brazil and in Uruguay in the "arts" of torturing political

Let me make it clear that I also was utterly shocked by the attacks and
saddened by the senseless killings of thousands of innocent people (some
Brazilians including).  But it is important that American students discuss
US foreign policies (and their often tragic consequences both to people
abroad as well as to Americans) with a more critical view.

Last night, in my "Gender and Development" class, we also discussed
Tuesday's Tragedies, in the context of a critical review of liberal
development theory. Like me, all my students were still shocked and sorry
for the victims and their families.  But as we tried to analyze what
happened in a wider context, we could not help but focus on the heavy
ideological content of Bush's address. His emphasis on the 'attack on
freedom and democracy' sounded very strange to us, Brazilians (or Latin
Americans as a whole), as we remembered how the US government supported the
attack  'on freedom and democracy'  in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina in the
60's and early 70's.

Cecilia Sardenberg
Universidade Federal da Bahia
cecisard  @  ufba.br
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 1980 12:25:54 -0300
From: tarducci <tarducci @ INTERSERVER.COM.AR>
Subject: discussing....
like argentinian I agree with cecilia=B4ve just said. many times the usa
foreign policy was terrorist.

Monica Tarducci
Email: tarducci  @  interserver.com.ar
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 00:52:52 -0400
From: Rosa Maria Pegueros <rpe2836u @ POSTOFFICE.URI.EDU>
Subject: Re: Discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the Classroom
Every class I teach has some discussion of the CIA's covert operations or
U.S. policy in Latin America; like Cecilia, I believe it is very important
that students be made aware of these things. However, I would hesitate to
broach these issues now while the tragedy is so fresh in their minds. My
students were confused, scared, angry; telling them that the U.S. brought
this on itself-- while it is partially true (though not the sole reason
that Bin Laden is determined to destroy the U.S.)--will fall on
shell-shocked ears.

A cousin who works across from the WTC told me how she watched the Towers
collapsing, and described the carnage--the pieces of human beings that were
falling out of the sky. At this stage, when we still don't know if loved
ones are lost in the rubble, blown to bits, incinerated in 2000-degree
fires, or wounded in hospitals, it seems callous to throw that in our
students' faces.  I had students that missed classes because they were so
upset by these events; others who missed while they waited anxiously to
hear if a loved one survived the inferno.

I am not saying that these subjects should not be discussed; only that
these ideas will be better heard when our minds are not clouded with grief,
terror, and confusion.


P.S.: I found several articles on the Interet today about the backlash
against Arab Americans and Muslims.

Attacks Against Arab-Americans Escalate in U.S
By Michael Conlon
WBUR-National Public Radio
CHICAGO (Reuters) 9-13-2001 -
Muslims across nation targets of attack
Vandalism, threats made in Bay Area
Ryan Kim, Chronicle Staff Writer    Thursday, September 13, 2001
ACLU fears intrusive policies, racial profiling
Phone line has been set up for use by Arab Americans
Harriet Chiang, Chronicle Legal Affairs Writer    Thursday, September 13,
9:39 AM PDT,September 13, 2001
Arab-Americans Attacked, Threatened
By MELANIE COFFEE, Associated Press Writer
Rosa Maria Pegueros, J.D., Ph.D.
Women's Studies Program &       Washburn Hall, 217C
Department of History           E-mail:
University of Rhode Island      <rpe2836u  @  postoffice.uri.edu>
80 Upper College Road, Suite 3  Telephone: (401) 874-4092
Kingston, RI 02881                    Fax: (401) 874-2595

"I have learned from my teachers and from my colleagues. But
I have learned the most from my students." --Rabbi Hanina
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 15:09:17 -1000
From: Kathy Ferguson <kferguso @ HAWAII.EDU>
Subject: Re: Discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the Classroom

I've been having this same conversation with colleagues and students. My
feminist methods grad seminar struggled to bring feminist analytic tools to
bear on the violence.  These are a few of the points we pursued:

1. Critique of dualistic thinking: the dualism of "terrorist" and "state"
needs to be unravelled, because it hides a set of power relations in which
state violence is legitimized and those without states or access to states
are demonized. In class we used the language of mass murder to talk about
the violence, because it focuses on the deaths rather than on the killers'
relation to states.

2. Critique of facile analogies:  the analogy to Pearl Harbor needs to be
challenged because it hides major historical/political differences and
because it offers a dangerous reassurance to Americans that they will
"win." Historically, a military attack by an identifiable state is not the
same as an insurgent attack by groups difficult to identify. The analogy
suggests that the proper response is to declare war, as Bush has done; it
closes off the possibility of thinking of a different response, such as
asking about the consequences of global injustice for the US and others who
benefit from and perpetuate that injustice.

3.  Critique of essentialized identities: the "Palestinians" who were
repeatedly shown on CNN celebrating the violence were a VERY SMALL number
of people, yet they are taken as representative of "their kind."
Contradictory messages, such as the message of condolence from the
Palestinian village of Beit Sahour and that of many other Palestinian
individuals and groups,  receive no national coverage.

4. Critique of the continuous appeal to "strength": Bush and many other
government spokespersons repeat the claims that the violence is an attack
on U.S. "strength," that we are still "strong," etc. These mindless
affirmations of the nation's manhood cover up the ways in which U.S.
"strength," defined more critically as empire, produces the nation's
vulnerability by creating a violent world order in which the resentments
against us have come home.

These are humble beginnings, but I hope we can push further. The War
Resister's League said it well "'An eye for an eye' leaves us all blind."

Kathy Ferguson
Director of Women's Studies
University of Hawai`i

Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 02:53:32 -0500
Subject: Re: Discussing Tuesday's Tragedies in the Classroom
I believe that there are at least two ways to discuss this:tactically and
abstractly. Given that most classes probably have many a member who is not
a student of such issues in combating such, the tactical way should be

    Ie: Few women are terrorists
        Probably accurate BUT a very effective terrorist is a woman.
        They are low on the suspiscion ladder, customs make them
        harder to search, people confide in them thinking that they
        can't be part of the enemy, etc.. One only has to look to
        Entebbe to find women terrorists.

Okay, avoid tactical discussions. If, among anything else, tactics can operate
out of the world of humanity and in that of logic and it can get very brutal
from there.

That leaves abstractly. Granted, one could approach it directly on polictical
ideals and beliefs, but remember the difference between scientific method and
belief. That of method allows for something being disproved if there is
evidence to do so. Belief accepts it as is and tends to be unbudgable, no
compromise, logic tight rooms. Debating on beliefs, unless the debaters truely
have open minds, can, from observance, produce heated tempers, wasted energy,
and not much else.

Back to abstractly. Concepts without details. Parallelism. Analogies. At the
risk of sounding like tactics, be like the interrogator. Find something in
the other's life that both can identify with. And this method goes both ways.
In the interrogator, it is used to exploit. In the captive, it is used to make
the captive a person in the eyes of the interrogator/captor.

I don't have a clear cut answer for this. I've been debating on and off for
a few days with internet people to try to neutralize group hate of Muslims,
those of the Middle East. I'm American Christain and, among other things,
a student of Arab/Israeli politics and Islamic law.I haven't been that
successful even when the people I'm debating with are exercising group hate
and they should be wary of such (gay and lesbian). They argue from logic tight
rooms and about the only thing I can gather from such is that direct attack
on their beliefs, to show what they say is wrong, doesn't work.

Granted, it is questionable of whether I should be trying to change their
beliefs at all. Where belief stops and group hate begins is a fine, hard to
find, line.

About the only other suggestion I can offer in talking this situation out is
not to jump to conclusions without sufficient (as oppose to absolute) evidence.
Try to use American ideals. Don't let people go off on the path of "Well, he
must be guilty of something!" Point out that turning a country into a parking
lot will do the same thing here; kill a lot of innocents who had no say in
what happened. Unfortunally, an alternative to such is not too popular these
days. Ie, if the leadership of a country is found 'responsible', then instead of
asphalt, go in, take over the country, and set up the type of government that is
acceptable to you. Not a popular solution because it has a lot of failed

But remember, things can be expanded on. The government set up doesn't have to
be a mirror copy of your own. And in many different philosphies, not only can
a good example of how things should be can be found, but also, it probably can
be found that is acceptable to you.

So...set up the US in a country? No or not necessarily. But some other system
can probably be found that is acceptable at various levels.

And details don't have to be reached; this is abstract.

As far as coping with the violation of innocence, I shall leave such to others.
Those gifts or vulnerabilities have long since been removed from me.

Hope it helps,

th06  @  swt.edu
Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 07:31:14 -0400
From: Deborah Louis <louis @ UMBC.EDU>
Subject: Re: chickens coming home to roost...
i had my first two class meetings since the tragedy yesterday--both
classes of 30+--and the discussion was intense but my feeling was,
productive.  i was surprised to hear that for almost all of the
students, i had been the first instructor since the school reopened
wednesday to have broached the subject and spent class time on it--maybe
3 students said they had talked about it in another class.  they were
all eager to, though not sure what they wanted to say (at first)...

there were enough students in each class with a close/personal tie to
the events to keep it salient for everybody, and to keep the
conversation respectful (one of the students who had reported discussion
in a previous class said that "everybody was screaming at each other, it
was awful")...

i approached the subject of the extent to which this is a response to
very real behavior of/experience with the u.s. as part of exploring the
"whys" and the psychology of the perpetrators, which seemed to be a
successful tack--students who had no idea that "we" have been bombing
"innocent civilians" and supporting repressive regimes for years reacted
with surprise and interest instead of denial and resistance (hence the
birth of some term paper topics!)--i was also surprised that in both
classes the discussion moved for a time from this point to a
conversation about u.s. foreign policy, and the idea that we citizens
CAN have an influence on the choices we make as a nation as to how we
treat others around the world...

when one student said "but what president would dare to go up against
the multinationals to change the way we deal with third world nations?"
it presented a golden opportunity to inform them that jfk was actually
pursuing this path--and indeed this may be one of the precipitating
factors to his assassination...

also, cutting through the confusion around "rules of engagement" issues,
such as recent prohibitions vs. assassinating heads of state and killing
civilian populations afforded the opportunity to ask them what values
THEY feel are appropriate and "american"--did they disagree with these
policies (which may be the first to go in the next few weeks)?  should
one set of rules apply to us and another set apply to others?  etc

i was also surprised to find that most of these students were also
uncomfortable with the use of the term "cowardly" to describe the
actions, and with the lack of emotion on the parts of news
commentators--some of us were old enough to tell them about walter
cronkite, and some had seen documentaries of the hindenburg disaster,
which put to rest acceptance of the "media automaton" model most
students have grown up with...

they were also very accepting of the additional book assignment and
adjustment of the course schedule to incorporate focus on the tragedy
and the issues and concerns arising from it...

i am TOTALLY convinced that we have both an opportunity and a
responsibility here--one of the most striking aspects of my class
experience yesterday was the sheer lack of information most students are
trying to process this with--for instance, those enraged at the clips of
the palestinian "party" had (as intended) generalized from that, and
hadn't considered that this was a small group in a small place, they
were seeing the same clip over and over, and that giving that impression
served specific political agendas...

but back to my main point--if we present the historical and
policy-debate information AS information--i.e. we have to also consider
these factors in understanding 1) what happened and 2) what we can
expect in the future, we are better able to make effective decisions
about what we should do...

debbie <louis  @  umbc.edu>

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