Students across Arizona — members of a generation born after the world-altering terrorist attacks of 9/11 — would have to learn about the pivotal day in American history under a proposal announced by Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday.
“We are now at a point where Arizonans of a certain age have no direct recollection of the pain and anger we felt two decades ago when terrorists attacked our country, or the resolve and courage demonstrated in the days that followed,” Ducey said in a statement.
Ducey said he wants to mandate that educators teach about Sept. 11, 2001, in their K-12 classrooms. Current education standards include references to 9/11 and terrorism, but Ducey wants to make the curriculum a requirement.
The governor’s statement did not include details about those lessons, nor whether they would be taught to students in all K-12 grades. Ducey said he would work with state education leaders and the Legislature, which does not convene again until January, to make the curriculum mandatory.
Ducey’s statement included support from leaders of both chambers’ education committees, a signal that a bill could become reality. State Rep. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, said he intended to sponsor legislation in line with the governor’s proposal. Kaiser served in Afghanistan.
“Arizona’s children need to know our nation’s history — even the events that are hard to talk about,” Kaiser said in a statement.
14 states mandate 9/11 instruction
Fourteen states mandate education about 9/11 in schools, according to the Governor’s Office and media reports. A 2019 survey of about 1,100 middle and high school teachers in the United States found most included lessons on 9/11, though to varying degrees and in varying ways.
Ducey, a Republican, announced the plan one day before the 20th anniversary of the horrific attacks that many Americans watched live on television: commercial airplanes flying into the iconic twin skyscrapers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a wing of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania.
In all, 2,977 Americans died that day in 2001 and the nation’s war on terror began.
Ducey said flags at state buildings would be lowered to half-staff on Saturday in remembrance of those victims.
The hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida terrorists who were responsible for those deaths also caused waves of anti-Muslim and anti-Middle Eastern sentiment in the United States.
That hate made its way to the Grand Canyon State. Just four days after 9/11, a 50-year-old Sikh man, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was shot and killed by a man who was targeting people wearing turbans.
Two decades later, the U.S. ended its involvement in Afghanistan last month amid fresh scenes of chaos and violence as troops were withdrawn from the country.
Ducey OK’d other classroom mandates
Arizona’s second-term governor has a history of etching classroom requirements into state law.
The first bill he signed as governor required high school students to pass a citizenship test before graduation. Three years later, he signed legislation creating a civics education program for high school students.
In June, he signed a slate of state budget bills that also prevented schools from implementing mask and vaccine mandates beginning later this month. In July, Ducey signed a bipartisan bill into law requiring teaching about the Holocaust and other genocides. That bill also banned teaching of critical race theory, which broadly involves teaching certain facets of systemic racism and its impact on communities.
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