Ferdi Serim
Twin Towers of Mind, of Heart
by Ferdi Serim • Editor, MultiMedia Schools

I write this editorial at the midpoint: As much time has passed since September 11 as will pass until you read these words in print. From the first moment the first word of the tragedy reached us, we in schools have been dealing with a changed world. We are on the frontlines of caring, helping the young to make sense of the world we've created. A world our technology brings into our classrooms, into our homes, into our lives with more immediacy than ever before. A world where threats from without are balanced by threats from within, where e-mail informs us of terror, and snailmail delivers it.

Even in this time of terror, the seeds of sanity respond to, and require, our care. At no time has our work ever been more important.

As we grapple with the implications of September 11, the altered skyline of lower Manhattan provides a stark paradigm for "before and after." In their place rise the twin challenges of making sense of events through reliable sources, and using our understanding to extend the reach of freedom and security to all the world's people.

As educators, our responses to children's questions of "Why?" remove the sterile barrier between "content areas" of history, economics, comparative religion, media literacy, physics, engineering, and "real life." Suddenly the pain of a world that long since stopped seeing itself as "safe" was brought to our doorstep. Suddenly the phrase "if you seek peace, seek justice" has much deeper meaning. Suddenly our role in providing young people with both the facts and the intellectual tools to interpret these facts has taken on long-term significance. All of us have been advised, both with mind and heart, to understand that moving beyond this crisis point will be a long haul. The generation we now prepare to take the world stage will have to rely on the foundations we help them grow, right now, before our eyes, in our classrooms, in our homes.

Expanding Towers of Mind
In "America's Expanding News Borders," Eriq Gardner, the New York editor at Upside Magazine, notes, "Barely a month ago, everything outside our own border hardly seemed to matter. Call it the privilege of being an American. Or the demonstration of being arrogant."

He defines "expanding news borders" as follows: "News borders refer to the consumer, rather than producer, side of gathering information, and the increasing ease of finding disparate sources of news outside traditional or local boundaries. Think, for example, about living in New York and taking a friend's e-mailed recommendation about a story online at U.K.'s The Guardian Web site. Now, think about doing this 10 years ago.... In recent years, satellites and the Internet have been the two primary technology vehicles for expanding news borders. In the future, broadband and better translation services might push news borders even further."

Anne Taylor, of Canada's noteworthy Media Awareness Network, adds her voice. "I agree that the Internet combined with September 11th is pushing news borders and making active news consumers out of many of us. The problem is that it's only a certain group that goes searching, even at times as complex and distressing as we're experiencing now. It's a giant step in the right direction to simply get the idea into kids' heads that what they're seeing on TV is not THE news, but a version of the news which is founded upon (and funded by) specific ideological, political, and national interests. Kids today are in a great position, with their well-honed Internet skills, to seek out diverse perspectives online. What they need is guidance in developing the critical-thinking skills to handle the mass of information, online and off."

Anne continues, "There's no 'up-side' to what's happening in the world right now, but we do have to admit that September 11th and its aftermath is a 'teachable moment' par excellence. I hope your readers will check out the October issue of Barry's Bulletin, an online monthly teaching aid written by Canadian media educator, Barry Duncan. It's chock full of approaches to probing the media coverage of the last month, September 11th-related topics for discussion, sources of alternative information, and theory on developing critical thinking. We've been overwhelmed by the positive response to this issue of the Bulletin from media education leaders all over the U.S. It's on the Media Awareness Network site at http://www.media-awareness.ca/eng/med/class/multilib/oct2001.htm. Other resources for talking about the terrorist attack with kids and lessons for encouraging critical thinking can be accessed through the 'For Educators' part of our site at http://www.media-awareness.ca/eng/med/class/."

Expanding Towers of Heart
Here are a few resources you can use with your students to explore how to turn shock, grief, and rage into meaningful, constructive, and informed action.

Finally, friends and colleagues are creating resources that build community and gather knowledge, so that we may emerge from these times with new possibilities, based upon better understanding. Within hours of the tragedy, Andy Carvin created the Sept11info listserv [sept11info@yahoogroups.com], where global points of view continue to be shared, discussed, explored. Kristen Hammond has created an area on her site that brings together a host of resources for parents and educators as we move from recovery to rebuilding [http://www.edupuppy.com/sept11.html].

If we didn't know it before September 11, we now have a deeper understanding that we all share only one world. History has been described as a race between education and annihilation. In the years ahead, the outcome of this race will depend upon the success of our efforts.

Communications to the Editor may be addressed to: Ferdi Serim, MultiMedia Schools, 11 Palacio Road, Santa Fe, NM 87505; 505/466-1901; fax: 505/466-1901; ferdi@infotoday.com.

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