Father And Son Visit Ground Zero
I recently had the opportunity to take my nine-year-old son George to Ground Zero in New York City, and for the first time as a father (and educator), I found myself at a loss as to how to prepare him for the experience. I could remain virtually silent about what happened on September 11, 2011 and instead just focus on seeing the two big fountains at Ground Zero. I could give him the “broad strokes” while leaving out many of the complex details about religious fundamentalism and the war on terror which might be over his head. I could focus on the event as an historic battle with enough distance to avoid creating unwanted anxieties. Or, I could introduce him to all these things and delve relatively deeply into the scope of this human tragedy, what happened and why.
As an educator, I often refer to my son as my “focus group of one”, and with many such issues, I reflect not just on my own son, but on our Woodcrest K-5 students. Of course, something like 9/11 is an event that most elementary school students are not ready to fully comprehend, either intellectually or emotionally. What struck me most when thinking about how to introduce my son to 9/11 in some way was the global awareness, or lack thereof, of elementary-age children. There is, I believe, a real need to impart some sense of today’s world to those students. A regular examination of current events always has a place in an elementary social studies curriculum, but to what degree does it create an awareness of our dynamic world, of the many forces that work together and in conflict, of the “delicate balance” that exists among societies on earth? I tell my friends and colleagues: look for an elementary school that gives careful attention to imparting its students with foundational skills that will serve them well in middle school and in life. Modern students in a modern world need modern foundational skills and that includes not only math and reading, but also the introduction of critical thinking skills that take our world into consideration and produce engaged citizens of the global community.– John Khouri, Executive Director Woodcrest School
PS. I decided to let my son shape the discussion, to give him the facts about what happened that day over a decade ago and then let him ask me questions. My answers neither patronized nor intimidated. I felt my way along, moment to moment as I witnessed him processing my answers and putting together his own picture of that day. Then I hugged him and showed him the big fountains.