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Foreign War and Domestic Freedom: A Delicate Balancing Act

Take Action

The following ideas are shorter adaptable classroom activities that encourage students to be active citizens.

Fight Back Against Discrimination
The events of 9/11 resulted in pockets of discriminatory activity around the nation, primarily targeted at Arab, Pakistani, and other Middle Eastern and Asian communities who, in some people's eyes, represented "terrorists." Invite students to undertake research (newspaper articles, interviews) to determine if people were discriminated against in their community, and, if so, the form that this discrimination took. Have students convene a panel of community members, i.e., Arab Americans, civil liberties groups, immigration lawyers, etc., who will discuss the issue at a school assembly and/or other community venue.

Provide a More Comprehensive View of Islam
The attacks of 9/11 raised peoplešs awareness of Islam but also resulted in some level of misunderstanding. In many instances, Islam was associated with terrorism. Using the many resources on Islam and America (, invite students to create a handbook or resource guide for students and/or community members that explains the essence of Islam and the culture of the American Muslim. The overall goal of the guide is to present a neutral look at a rich culture, allowing people a more comprehensive view of Islam. To enhance student perspectives while preparing the guide, invite a local Muslim leader to speak to the students about the culture of Islam and its teachings regarding terrorism. If a Muslim leader isn't available locally, conduct an e-mail interview with one. Have a Muslim proofread the students' guide on Islam and provide feedback. Share the final handbook with others at school or in the community.

Find Out if Post-9/11 Advertising is Considered Exploitive or Helpful
After 9/11, many businesses tied patriotism, their philanthropic efforts toward the victims of the attacks, and images from 9/11 to their advertising messages. A commentary by John Ridley ( argues that such sales pitches are simply efforts by these companies to profit from a national tragedy. Find out if people in your community agree. First, have students collect examples of advertising and commercials that tie their message somehow to 9/11. Dissect the ads in class and identify the key messages communicated through images, text, music, etc. Next, have students create a survey to measure people's attitudes towards such advertising. Be sure the survey questions get at whether people believe that companies were exploiting the public after 9/11 for profit, or if such advertising is actually a way to boost the mood and economy of the nation. Students can survey peers, teachers, community leaders, local merchants, etc.

Plan a 9/11 Memorial
The events of 9/11 evoke myriad sentiments, from grief to anger to pride in our nation's heroes. What did the tragedy mean to people in your school or community? Have students brainstorm a list of key questions to use in interviews with people at school or in the community. Guide students in finding common themes and values expressed by interviewees and discuss ways to communicate these elements in a temporary or permanent memorial commemorating 9/11. Work with students to implement their memorial. Have students contact local media for coverage of the memorial's official "unveiling."