Action Education: Rethinking Schools Lauded for Post 9-11 Curriculum

By Catherine Capellaro

Bob Peterson
Photo: Barbara Miner

Rethinking Schools founder and editor Bob Peterson traveled to Washington, D.C. recently to receive an award for innovative approaches to teaching material related to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“Our panel of four judges unanimously concurred on selecting [Peterson’s] impressive entry,” says David Commins, executive director of the Clarke Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Contemporary Issues at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Penn.

The Clarke Center hosts the website, which provides hundreds of links for teachers including resources, sample lesson plans, syllabi, and modules they can use to teach about 9/11, terrorism, human rights, and international issues.

The judges unanimously chose Peterson’s entry to be the best example of elementary level teaching on issues related to 9/11. The judges included MaryEllen Salamone, president of Families of Sept. 11, whose husband John Salamone worked on the 104th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center; William Durden, president of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Penn.; Alison Zimbalist, New York Times Learning Network; and Mary Kay Durham, superintendent of Carlisle Area School District.

Peterson and the other winners spoke at a Sept. 9 conference at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Peterson’s winning entry described his work in creating and distributing Rethinking Schools ‘ special edition titled “War, Terrorism and Our Classrooms.”

“In the immediate aftermath of September 11, teachers everywhere were coping with students’ fears, grief, and confusion,” wrote Peterson. “I was no different. My fifth graders and I had class discussions, wrote poetry, and followed the news. However, because I am an editor of Rethinking Schools, one of the few, if not only, national education journals published by classroom teachers, I knew I had to do more. I helped to publish a special report ‘War, Terrorism and Our Classrooms.'”

The special report was inserted into the Winter 2001 – 02 edition of Rethinking Schools. Rethinking Schools has distributed more than 200,000 copies of the report, which is available online at:

“The tragic events of 9/11 and the subsequent wars that have followed are all reminders of how important it is for teachers and parents to stay closely connected to our children and youth,” said Peterson. “We need to engender empathy and help them sort out some very difficult issues their generation will face.”

Peterson donated his $1000 award to Rethinking Schools to, as he explained it, “help further its work for global justice education.”