Page 16

Teaching Osama Bin Laden's Death In The Classroom

05/ 2/11 08:23 PM ET When Christine Yarzabek, a first-grade teacher in Hershey, Pa., heard that Osama bin Laden had been shot and killed, she was at a loss. “9/11 happened before my students were even born,” she said. “It makes it hard to truly tell them in an appropriate way what is going on.” Yarzabek teaches 22 six-year-olds from various backgrounds. Her class includes English language learners, including Spanish-speaker Alejandro, who told Yarzabek that bin Laden should have been imprisoned, rather than killed. It also included Adwaith, of India, who understood exactly what was going on. How was she supposed to handle the situation? As pundits, national security experts and news outlets try to analyze the ramifications of bin Laden's death, teachers across the country face the challenge of teaching a dramatic event in real time. Under pressure of Advanced Placement exams and state tests, they are curtailing their curricula to address the news of the day -- a story they simply couldn’t ignore. This set of circumstances puts the teacher in a critical role, said Margaret Berci, an expert in K12 Social Studies who works in the education department at the College of Staten Island. “One of the major challenges is to make sure we do not indoctrinate,” she said. Berci advised that when faced with controversial news events, teachers should present different sides and perspectives before allowing students to draw their own conclusions. “A teacher should guide them through the decision-making process, whether they are in kindergarten or grade 12,” she said.

Page 16 of 201

May 2011  
May 2011