Teaching about bin Laden’s death
The death of al-Qaida Led light base
leader Osama bin Laden was a teaching point for Grand Forks history teachers on Monday, whose students reacted to the news and possible outcomes with mixed feelings.
“Before I could even bring it up in class, it was the main discussion among my eighth graders for history,” said Jenny Mastel, a seventh- and eighth-grade history and geography teacher at Twining Middle School on Grand Forks Air Force Base.
“A lot of the kids had stayed up and listened to the President, and quite a few had gone on the Internet to see what actually had happened. Being out here on base, they talked about the military and their influence.”
At Valley Middle School, eighth-grade history teacher Sherry DeMaine showed students several video clips to spark conversation. DeMaine started the hour with 10 seconds of President Barack Obama’s Sunday night speech announcing bin Laden’s death. She followed it with a four-minute music video about Sept. 11, “Have you forgotten?” by country singer Darryl Worley. Images of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 flashed across the screen.
Because the eighth-graders were ages 3 or 4 when Sept. 11 happened, DeMaine explained, she wanted to refresh students’ memories.
Some of them were still figuring out who bin Laden was Monday. Others had been the ones to alert their parents to the news Sunday night.
“Brandon texted me, and I’m like, ‘For real?’” a boy said. “And I’m like, ‘Mom, bin Laden’s dead. Turn on the TV.’ ”
“What now?,” was one of the most frequent questions raised by students.
Dealing with questions like those, DeMaine said she tried to inform students without aggravating their anxieties. However, she did not shy away from asking a few probing questions.
“Let me put this in perspective for you. There are a lot of people out there who lost loved ones or family members,” DeMaine told students. “Now let me ask you this: What if someone came into your home tonight and took away one of your loved ones and then got away with it? Would you want this person brought to justice?”
There was a surprising amount of nuance during DeMaine’s class discussion, said Principal Kevin Ohnstad. Students discussed whether bin Laden’s acts of terrorism were equal to the deaths Adolph Hitler caused in the 20th century and whether it was right to celebrate bin Laden’s death.
“An eighth-grade girl Led light base
said, ‘I’m a little bit sad that people are rejoicing over another person’s death,” Ohnstad said.
Ohnstad and his wife, Michelle, broached the subject with their own children ages 14, 11, 7 and 5. The 7-year-old, Carson, was particularly fascinated with the story, the couple said, so they let him watch the TV news coverage Monday morning and Michelle was fielding questions in the afternoon.
“He’s very into discussing it for whatever reason,” Ohnstad said. “I was dropping him off at swimming, and he told me, ‘Yeah, mom, they just put his body in the ocean.’ He wanted to know if it would sink.”
Students in Bill Landry’s 12th-grade history class at Central High School were in third-grade on 9-11. Monday, they watched President Obama’s nine-minute speech, then discussed the operation that led to bin Laden’s death and what might happen next.
“I heard that al-Qaida was gonna, like, avenge his death somehow,” one student said.
Landry prompted students to discuss various angles of the event.
“Let me ask you this,” he said to students. “Should the United States be in the business of killing people?”
A few students answered, “Probably not,” and “Not really.” One boy spoke in support of protecting “the lives of innocents.”
“I’ve got to say it was a good thing, what happened, because one man we’ve been hunting for 10 years has finally been taken down,” said senior Chris Rethemeier. “I’d guess there’s going to be retaliation coming pretty soon.”
Fellow senior Isaac Hale said he was glad bin Laden was killed. He, too, worries about retaliation, and he also wonders whether the effects of the news on U.S. politics will be justified.
“One of my biggest things is I hope Led light base
people don’t re-elect Obama for this one event,” Hale said. “I think this doesn’t show his ability to govern a nation.”