Taking Action - Page 2
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Taking Action
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Reflecting on September 11
Fostering Diversity
Reading—Planning a Teach-In

In the aftermath of September 11, a social studies class in New Jersey realized that they had very little understanding about the Middle East—its people, its history, religions, and why so many of its  people harbored such hatred toward America. They also realized that their lack of understanding about the Middle East made it difficult to understand what had happened in New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11.

In order to (1) understand the causes and consequences of the terrorists attacks of September 11, and (2) to foster a better understanding about people of Muslim or Middle-Eastern origin, the New Jersey social studies class decided to organize a Middle-East Teach-In.

A teach-in is a conference that is designed to gather and share information on a certain topic. During the Vietnam War, students and teachers in colleges, universities, and high schools conducted teach-ins about Vietnam—its history, and culture, America’s involvement in Southeast Asia, and options for responding to the war as citizens in a democracy. Since the 1960s, teach-ins have been held on foreign affairs, domestic issues, health, the environment, education, public safety, and dozens of other topics.

A teach-in enlists the aid of experts and participants who are willing to research the teach-in topic. Experts and researchers then gather to present their knowledge and findings to teach-in participants. Debates, panel discussions, and open forums help to broaden understanding and allow everyone to participate. To conduct a Middle-East Teach-In, the class:

  1. Gave their project a name that would make it clear to everybody in  the school what they were doing—A Middle-East Teach-In.
  2. Stated the problem: they didn’t understand the Middle East—its people, history, culture, and politics. Lack of understanding created fear and possible intolerance.
  3. Created a project goal: to improve understanding of the Middle East to ease fears and prevent intolerant behavior in response to September 11.
  4. Wrote a project plan: to outline the subject areas they thought would help improve their understanding of the Middle East.
  5. Assigned tasks: to ensure that all subject areas were covered by presentations or discussions, and that the whole school knew when, where, and how the teach-in would be conducted.
  6. Found resources and partners in the school and community who knew about the Middle East and would be able to help them conduct the teach-in.
  7. Listed obstacles or difficulties that might get in the way of preparing for, publicizing, or conducting the teach-in.
  8. Set up an evaluation procedure to measure the success of the teach-in in achieving its goals.
The social studies class invited the entire school to attend. The Middle East Teach-In was such a success that they presented a second version of the teach-in to the community. Hundreds of citizens of all ages attended the community teach-in.

For Discussion

  • What was the problem? What was the goal?
  • How did their goal address the events of September 11?
  • How did they set about achieving their goal?
  • Why did they assign tasks?
  • How did they include the community in their project?

  Brainstorm Tips

Use these Brainstorm Tips to make a list of possible projects to address issues arising from September 11.
  1. Describe any and all ideas that come to mind.
  2. Work as fast as possible to create a lot of ideas.
  3. Write down each idea.
  4. Don't reject ideas. There are no wrong ideas in a brainstorm.
  5. If you are working with a group, build on each other's ideas.