By Gloria Gomez/UA Don Bolles Fellow/AZ Mirror
PHOENIX — “Never forget” will not only be enshrined in American vernacular but also Arizona curriculum, if a new proposal establishing 9/11 Education Day approved this week passes into law.
Public school teachers will be directed to craft lesson plans about the terrorist attacks every September 11, or the school day closest to it. The bill makes no exceptions for younger students beyond allowing for the adoption of age-appropriate material.
The House on Feb. 23 approved House Bill 2325 on a bipartisan 39-20 vote, sending the bill to the Senate for consideration.
Fountain Hills Republican Rep. John Kavanagh said he was asked by Governor Doug Ducey’s office to introduce the measure. The date is of particular personal significance to Kavanagh because of his 20 year career as a port authority officer in New Jersey.
“Almost all of the 37 port authority officers (who died in the 9/11 attacks) I knew — either having taught them when I was an instructor at the police academy or having worked with them,” he said.
Arizona would join 14 other states that mandate some form of 9/11 lessons in their curriculums. Ducey announced his intention to add Arizona to that list shortly after last year’s anniversary, saying it was a necessary step to ensure the younger generations who were not alive to witness the tragic events are fully informed.
A University of Wisconsin Oshkosh survey of 1,047 secondary school teachers found that among the top issues they faced developing lessons about 9/11 were time constraints and context inclusion. Combating 9/11 conspiracy theories and rising anti-Islamic sentiment is difficult when lessons need to be pared down to fit into the schedule permitted by state-mandated curriculum. Lessons, the survey found, also tend to create nationalistic narratives instead of including context like the formation of Al-Qaeda and the War on Terror.
If codified into law in Arizona, the new requirements would not wait for the State Board of Education’s curriculum review but instead go into effect immediately. The board would need to standardize lesson plans across grade levels and determine what exactly to teach each age group.
“The State Board of Education will solicit input on what should go into the curriculum and then they’ll design age appropriate curriculum. Because, obviously, depending if you’re talking to first-, second-, third-graders versus high school students, you go into different detail,” Kavanagh said.
During the Education Committee last week, Rep. Judy Schwiebert, D-Phoenix, and Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, D-Chandler — both former teachers — pointed out that the events of September 11 are already covered in schools. Legislating educational mandates, they said, only serves to constrain teachers and add to their workloads.
Gloria Gomez, a senior at the University of Arizona, is the 2022 UA School of Journalism’s Don Bolles Fellow working with editors from the Arizona Mirror. Gomez has interned at the Arizona Daily Star and worked at the Arizona Daily Wildcat. She is a dual major in journalism and political science, with a Spanish minor. She’s a member of the Investigative Reporters and Editors and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. The UA School of Journalism started the fellowship in 1977 to honor Don Bolles, an Arizona Republic reporter killed in a 1976 car bombing.