The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

September 11, a call for education

This Monday, our school will use our advisory period (STAR) to talk about the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The day will begin with me on the PA, offering some words to our students. After some careful thought, I’ve decided to go with the following:

“Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of an American tragedy. Thousands of citizens lost their lives in terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and in a field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. This morning during STAR, we’ll take time to reflect on this tragic event in the history of our nation, and to learn about the efforts that are being made to always remember the victims and their families.

Terrorists seek to frighten us and to threaten our way of life. Days like these are reminders of just how vital education is to our freedom as Americans.

I’d ask that before we get started with our classroom activities this morning that you stand and join (NAME) and (NAME) as they lead us in the pledge of allegiance.”

Working on this announcement filled my head with thoughts. A sincere “thank you” to WordPress for allowing me to fully express myself without having the limits of preserving time for other activities.

In the decade since 9/11, our leaders (both Republicans and Democrats), talking heads on cable, and newspaper columnists have all agreed that the ultimate American victory over terrorism is the preservation of our democracy and our way of life. While the military of the United States has been called upon on several fronts to take this task on, and has responded admirably, true “systems thinking” tells us that the armed forces cannot be the ultimate solution to our fight against terrorism. While we’ll always need the troops, in a fight against an idea or set of beliefs, education is the answer.

Schools must be the place where our future generations learn to think independently, to read books that offer new perspectives, to see the complexity of the world, and to realize that generalizations are dangerous. Our society is a classroom where kids should learn about one another, to see their similarities and differences, and allow them to foster tolerance and respect. Educators are fighting terrorism in their own way, by developing the capability of our future generations to see complexity, think about it, and find new solutions.

My goal is not that our students see the world the same way that I do, though I hope we can all agree on some basics like being honest and respectful of others. My goal is that our students can form their own views and do so based on what they read, questions they answer, and they take notice and try to understand the perspective of others. With this skill set, our nation will be in good hands against those that intend to frighten us and interrupt our way of life.


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2 thoughts on “September 11, a call for education

  1. Mr. Bernia,

    I found your announcement to be well thought out and to the point. My school, a high school in Georgia, put together a short assembly with music from the band and choir and a photo slideshow which included the names of all staff and former students that have served in the military since that day. We had several members of our staff that were in the military or police squads dressed in their former uniforms including our SRO speak about the tragic events. When our SRO spoke, it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop in a theater filled with over 400 students. He was Brooklyn police officer that was called into action that day and for the next four months recovering/identifying body parts. His message was very clear to everyone in that room, we must talk about the events that took place that day and learn from them. He also pointed out that the group that was in that theater is likely one of the last groups that will have any memories of what took place that day and it is important to share our stories and never forget.

    When I took my students back to my classroom they asked me about my story and where I was on that fateful day. Though my story and that day had nothing to do with my subject area of chemistry, I told them my story and not a single student interrupted or broke eye contact for 15 minutes. Toward the end of my recollection I was moved to tears and so were many in my class.

    It is important to share what we remember and to arm ourselves with the knowledge and experiences of the people that were affected by it. History was written on that fateful day 10 years ago and it is important that we not only acknowledge that it happened but also that we make sure that it simply does not become another date from our past. 9/11/01 change the lives of every American and the teaching of that day should be prioritized in every classroom.

    • I was beyond inspired by your comment, thanks for sharing. It’s clear that your school is doing remarkable work in educating your students about the world we live in and the need to learn history or be doomed to repeat it.

      Thanks again,

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