Teaching Tragedy: Wilkes Course Focuses On 9/11
Wilkes University is offering a new history course this semester, and it completely focuses on 9/11.
Christine Muller, the new director of the university honors program and an assistant professor, is teaching a course titled “Producing the History of 9/11.” Her academic work has been largely focused on Sept. 11, 2001, and its aftermath.
“The entire semester we will try to understand the specific day, and it’s also how history is produced,” Muller said. “There is little about the aftermath. It’s not about the war on terror.”
She said 10 students are taking the course, which is in its third week.
“We don’t really get into the question of why,” Muller said. “We get into to questions of what happened and how do we know it.”
Most of her students are too young to have vivid recollections of what happened on 9/11. One of the course’s first assignments was to watch live coverage of the first several hours of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, after the first plane crashed into the first tower in New York City.
“The reason why I felt it’s important to start that way is these students are at most 5 or 6 years old when it happened,” Muller explained. “If they have any memories at all, it’s their parents’ reactions. They don’t have a direct memory.”
Many of her students are from New Jersey or near the New York metro area, so there’s a personal connection to what happened, she said.
“One of the first comments was: I didn’t realize how long it took for this to happen,” Muller said. “The other thing is just how uncertain the journalists were that day.”
Brian F. Carso Jr., an associate professor of history at Misericordia University, said he plans to spend 30 minutes talking about 9/11 today, the 17th anniversary of the terror attacks, during his Intro to American History class.
“My students now in that class were 1 year old or thereabouts,” Carso said. “It’s fascinating to see the perspective changes over the years. From students who were in high school and had a first-hand memory and were worried about mom and dad, to students who were in grade school. And they just remember mom coming to pick them up early. They remember how upset their teacher was. To now, where students don’t really have any memory of it at all.
The “whole life experience” of his current students is “in the context of post 9/11,” Carso said.
“They don’t have that recollection of what are all those freedoms I should expect,” he explained. “I think they have a diminished expectation of civil liberties sometimes. They grew up in the war-on-terror age.”
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