Two days after September 11th, EDC Vice President Eric Jolly began talking to colleagues about what the organization could do to support teachers as they helped students make sense of the tragedy and its aftermath. Newspapers were beginning to carry reports of violence against Muslims and people who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent. Recalls Jolly, “Obviously, we couldn’t do anything about the violence that had already taken place, but we thought we could help prevent attacks against new groups of innocent victims—including Arab Americans.”
Those concerns led to the development of Beyond Blame: Reacting to the Terrorist Attack, a free 30-page curriculum for middle and high school students written by Jolly and EDC colleagues Marilyn Felt and Stephanie Malloy. The curriculum was completed and posted to EDC’s Web site within seven days of the terrorist attack.
The curriculum features three lessons, designed to stimulate student reflection, discussion, and writing. Lesson 1, “What Is Justice? What Is the Injustice Here?” guides students through a discussion of the events of September 11th and reports of subsequent attacks and threats made against innocent people perceived to be of Arab descent. Lesson 2, “Has the Past Been Just?” examines parallels between the aftermath of September 11th and the internment of Japanese Americans in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Lesson 3, “How Can You Prevent Injustice?” leads students through a discussion of the kinds of actions they can take to prevent injustice and discrimination.
Thanks to the power of the Internet and the wide reach of EDC’s partners and networks, Beyond Blame spread rapidly to educators in the United States and several foreign countries, including The Netherlands, Japan, The Philippines, Great Britain, Ireland, Argentina, Belgium, Scandinavia, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka.
To date, Beyond Blame has been endorsed by more than 200 national professional associations and Web sites. It has been integrated into public school systems, informal education settings, adult education programs, religious school systems, teacher education programs, and international organizations. “Our goal was to design a curriculum specifically in response to September 11th and get it to teachers as quickly as possible,” says Jolly. “EDC has been creating curricula for 40 years. We drew on that experience to ensure a very fast turnaround on an urgently needed resource.”
School districts have integrated Beyond Blame into their classrooms in a variety of ways. The Fresno, California School District—the fourth-largest district in the state—used the curriculum for a districtwide event to increase cultural awareness and prevent racial tensions after the attacks. Fresno Mayor Alan Autry and Superintendents Santiago Wood, Peter Mehas, and Walter Buster brought together 1,000 teen leaders from 41 schools for a Youth Peace Summit. “Getting the bus, the pizza, and the kids together for the Summit was the easy part,” says Fresno Associate Superintendent Carole Sarkisian-Bonard. “The challenge was giving the students something meaningful to take back to their schools. Beyond Blame gave us that content.”
Other uses of the Beyond Blame curriculum include the following:
- In Canada, the Alberta Law Foundation created a Canada-specific version of Beyond Blame-with historical material about the internment of Japanese Canadians during WWII and recent reports of discrimination against Muslims in Canada.
- In Lebanon, a high school teacher adapted Beyond Blame for a course she was teaching on another EDC-developed curriculum, Exploring Humanitarian Law. In response to the EDC materials, one Lebanese student reflected on the Arab-Israeli conflict: “‘Blood for blood’ reduces the human race into blood-thirsty savages. One cannot shed the blood of monsters without becoming a monster oneself.”
- New York City’s After-School Corporation has distributed nearly 200 copies and requested a training on its use.
- Massachusetts DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officers have requested copies of the curriculum for their program.
- Dan Misleh, director of Diocesan Relations for the U.S. Catholic Bishops, recommended Beyond Blame to the directors of social action in all 50 states; the Diocese of Richmond, Va., recommended the curriculum for every Catholic school in its system.
- The American Museum of Natural History in New York City printed 120 copies for its community outreach programs.
- The Texas Clearinghouse for Adult Education printed 1,000 copies for programs across the state.
- More than 200 organizations and Web sites have endorsed and posted links to the curriculum, including the American Association of School Administrators; Friendship Through Education (a UN affiliate); the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Comprehensive Assistance Centers; the National Association of Elementary School Principals; the National Association of Secondary School Principals; state departments of education in Maine, Ohio, and Vermont; the Arab American Institute; Stop the Hate-Governor of Massachusetts Hate Crime Prevention Site; the Coalition of Essential Schools; and the National Writing Project.
Originally published on July 25, 2002