The Anniversary of 9/11: Why Schoolchildren are Encouraged to Talk About Extremism

17 years ago, the catastrophic terrorist attacks of September 11th claimed the lives of almost 3000 people and would change the world overnight. Schoolchildren all over the world, including here in Britain, are growing up in countries which are still being shaped by the events of 9/11 today.

Of course, since 9/11, much of the focus of countering terrorism has focussed on law enforcement and military responses, but it is through education that we have the opportunity to effect lasting and meaningful change in our efforts to roll back the tide of extremism.

We can start by helping children and young people have all the tools to make sense of the world around them. Conspiracy, hatred and grievances can flourish and thrive in the gaps we allow to form as individuals attempt to interpret the world and current events.

At SINCE 9/11, our approach is to ensure that no topic is off limits. Armed with the knowledge to develop a more nuanced understanding of the world, both educators and children are in a position to challenge and undermine hatred, intolerance and extremism when they encounter it.

For several years, our Key Stage 3 and 4 teaching materials have provided teachers with the framework to discuss sensitive issues; from the origins of the 9/11 attacks themselves, to questions of security vs civil liberties and religious attitudes to conflict. Taking an approach which tackles at times difficult subjects affords young people the opportunity to fully contextualise and understand global events, but also exposes them to otherwise unconsidered alternative viewpoints – an activity which builds tolerance in its own right.

Now, SINCE 9/11 has once again worked in partnership with the UCL Institute of Education to create teaching materials to help pupils understand and play an active role in the world they are growing up in – but this time for Key Stage 2 (7-11 years).

As an organisation, we came to understand that Primary Schools were in need to greater support in fulfilling their legal duty to promote the Fundamental British Values of democracy, the Rule of Law, Individual Liberty and Mutual Respect and Tolerance for Different Faiths and Beliefs. And it is here that the new teaching materials are designed to fit.

You can’t just tell young people what to value and expect them to comply, but to allow liberal democracy to function we must encourage critical thinking in the next generation and guide them to consider our social values. If too few share these ideals then society would become intolerant and discriminatory – and individuals could no longer enjoy the freedom to live as they choose.

9/11 was a symbolic attack on those values that we hold dear – a tolerant, democratic and pluralistic society. That’s why SINCE 9/11 has produced resources which are specifically designed to contribute to our collective efforts to protect and nurture the values which were targeted on September 11th 2001. We hope that for Primary Teachers this programme of resources is a unique starting point in their efforts to build a more cohesive society for the future, one which is free of hatred and violence.

SINCE 9/11 is a UK charity established on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The SINCE 9/11 Key Stage 2 resources are available to download for free from www.since911.com/education-programme

Popular Resources

Internet advice for parents from Childnet International, a non-profit organisation helping to make the internet a safe space for children.

The FAST website provides support for families whose children have travelled to conflict zones or who may be about to plot, or commit, acts of terror in the UK.

Tips and advice to help parents keep up with their children’s online activity.

A link to quickly and anonymously report online material promoting terrorism or extremism.