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NCTE Position Statement

Resolution on Teaching in a Time of Crisis

2001 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland

Background

On September 11, 2001, classroom teachers, staff, and administrators near the World Trade Center led more than 8,000 students to safety. Across the nation, teachers were often the first adults to whom students at schools or on college campuses could turn when they heard of the tragedies in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Of course, September 11 was not the first instance when teachers have taken responsibility for the safety and well-being of their students in a time of crisis. Indeed, a 1986 NCTE resolution noted the "growing complexity of world problems," including "nuclear weapons, terrorism, diseases, [and] social dislocations," that produces "anxiety and apathy in students-reactions which teachers have a responsibility to combat."

English language arts teachers are particularly well positioned to address the emotional and intellectual well-being of students as they attempt to come to terms with the repercussions of the events of September 11. The impact is felt most directly by those whose relatives were killed in the initial attacks.

But the aftermath continues to touch families fearful of the reactions to the differences in their heritage or religious beliefs. Individuals working in the military, law enforcement and rescue agencies, airline industry, and postal service similarly suffer. Others have faced criticism for offering alternative interpretations of events, refusing to accept uncritically displays of political fervor, or insisting on a balance between security and personal freedoms. From widespread economic ramifications to the disturbing sense that reality has shifted, everyone has been affected.

In response to the attacks, English language arts teachers devised writing assignments and substituted carefully chosen literary texts to provide opportunities for the safe expression of thoughts and feelings. They searched Web sites, shared teaching ideas with their colleagues, and created curriculum that fosters critical inquiry.

Students around the world continue to be affected by these events, and teachers continue to show remarkable compassion and professionalism in working with their students. Unfortunately, these efforts are now threatened by funding choices that pit education against other national priorities. Be it therefore

Resolution

RESOLVED, that the National Council of Teachers of English publicly commend teachers, staff, and administrators

  • for their courage in leading students in and near the World Trade Center to safety and for their professionalism as they continue to work with students in extraordinarily difficult circumstances;
  • for assuming responsibility in similar instances where students' safety and well-being were threatened; and
  • for providing opportunities for students in the United States and throughout the world to interpret these events.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCTE continue to support

  • literature and writing instruction as a means for understanding loss, anger, war, and difference;
  • language study as a vehicle for understanding conflict, propaganda, and democratic discourse; and
  • critical literacy as an instrument essential to an informed citizenship and global understanding.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCTE impress upon policymakers the importance of maintaining funding for education despite the economic difficulties exacerbated by recent events.

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