I have borrowed this title from a collection of essays by
Wendell Berry,* as it has come to represent for me a common baseline for
understanding both the motivations and the complex aftermath of the events of
September 11, 2001 -- an aftermath that is still unfolding, which constitutes
our present, and which promises to define the fabric of our lives and those of
others in the global community for at least a generation to come. It reminds us that the point of terrorism is fear, and that it is fear which
rests at the foundation of the spectrum of responses -- from unthinking to
thoughtful, from vengeful to strategic, from personal to political -- which
characterizes America’s current discourse, decisionmaking, and action (though
not always, and perhaps only occasionally, in that order).
The consequences of the resulting choices we make, however,
are staggering in their implications
for the course of world events from this point forward, and for the temper and
quality of our own everyday lives. It
is recognition of this import that is prompting calls for reason, for the
interjection of “interpretation” between the stimulus and response components
of our behavior, from both within and outside of our national community. As scholars, scientists, and educators we
have a unique and compelling role in guiding and informing the discourse in all
its forms and venues, from the classroom to the community, from library
acquisitions to research proposals, from faculty senates to Congressional
hearings, from scholarly journals to the popular press. If we are not the voices of reason, who is?
The specific courses we happen to be teaching should not
preclude incorporation of learning experiences directly related to 9/11. While such opportunities are fairly obvious
in respect to history, philosophy, literature, journalism, and the pantheon of
social sciences, I know math and physics teachers who have integrated missile
trajectories, stress points and threshholds, and explosive capacity of jet fuel
into their respective curricula, and bio-chemistry and genetics teachers who
have integrated bio-terrorism topics into theirs. From education to allied health professions to environmental
sciences to accounting, there is room in any standard curriculum for discussion
of and application to issues arising from the events of Terrible Tuesday.
In keeping with the editors’ pleas for brevity, I would
simply like to share three thoughts
regarding “teaching about 9/11” based on my own experience and
observations since that date: 1) More
of us should be doing it. 2) Not all of
us should do it. 3) Doing it well
generates ripples of reason and compassion which flow outward from the
classroom through complex community networks, do not stop with the end of the
term, and change attitudes and perceptions in a fundamental way with
corresponding qualitative change in the public debate. Not one to reinvent wheels, I would urge my
colleagues who are ambivalent about addressing terrorism topics in the
classroom to read Jennifer Taylor’s article “Facilitating Difficult
Discussions: Processing the September 11 Attacks in Undergraduate Classrooms”
in Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy: Special Issue on Terrorism and
Its Consequences, The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
2002, pp. 143-150. On first reading, I
was startled at how closely her experience paralleled my own, and I have since
found that it is especially useful for assessing to what extent one’s own
temperament, pedagogical style, and group dynamics skills are compatible with
fruitful management of this (or any) highly-charged topic. More of us should be doing it. Some of us shouldn’t.
For us, we are in the presence of two sets of fears -- those
that we share with our fellow citizens about personal and community safety,
security, and the prospect of horrors to come, and those we share with our
professional colleagues about precipitating conflict in the classroom, risking
peer and/or institutional criticism, and cruising into uncharted intellectual
waters with untested flotation and navigational devices. As scholars, scientists and educators,
however, we should know better than most the ultimate folly of allowing fear to
dictate our actions and choices, of allowing ignorance to prevail over
knowledge, and of allowing conformity to stifle debate -- at least without a
*“In the Presence of Fear: Three Essays
for a Changed World,” available online from The Orion Society at www.oriononline.org
SPECIAL TOPICS - TERRORISM
SPRING 2002 • POLS-198-01
POLS 198 (3 credits) -- An interdisciplinary approach to understanding
contemporary terrorism and evaluating potential effectiveness of alternative
responses to it. Drawing from insights and analytical tools offered by
psychology, sociology, political science, history, and philosophy, students
will explore the causes and consequences of the attack on the World Trade
Center from both U.S. and global perspectives.
Emphasis will be placed on observing and evaluating the actual formation
of social and public policy resulting from these events, and the roles of
citizens and leaders in this process.
TEXTS: • Terrorism:
An Introduction, Jonathan White, Wadsworth Press
Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon, Grove Press
Lion’s Game, Nelson DeMille, Warner Books
Students will gain a working knowledge of the issues, people, and
vocabulary associated with the contemporary use of terrorism to achieve
political goals, and the specific experience of the events of September 11.
COURSE OUTLINE AND SCHEDULE
Introduction. Review of
syllabus, approach, and expectations.
Definition and criminology of terrorism. (White/1)
Historical Perspective: Evolution and context of terrorism as a strategy to
accomplish political goals.
2/11-13 History and organization of contemporary terrorism
2/18-20 Faith-based terrorism and revolutionary violence
(White/4&5; “The Dark Side of Moral Conviction,” Elizabeth Mullen).
2/25-27 Understanding the Western pespective. Philosophical
roots of internal and external
conflicts in perception; pluralism, exclusion, and the status of women.
the Middle East. Origins of Mid-East terrorism (White/7).
3/11-13 Palestine, Iran and Osama bin Ladin
3/18-20 Understanding Islam. PBS documentary: Islam: Empire
facilitator: Dr. Don Hoepfer, CCC
Understanding September 11:
The dynamics of terrorism from individuals to geo-politics.
4/1-3 Psychology of terrorism. Perpetrators (DeMILLE; FANON; “Are
Terrorists Mentally Deranged?” Charles
Ruby). [Are terrorists psychotic?]
Victims (“In the Wake of Terrorist Attack, Hatred May Mask Fear,” Jennifer Freyd). Read-aloud: “First Writing Since,”
poem by Suheir Hammad.
4/8-10 Sociology of
terrorism. Contexts and outcomes
(DeMILLE; FANON; “Them and Us: Hidden Ideologies--Differences in Degree or Kind?” Rhoda Unger, Brandeis University;
“Understanding Collective Hatred,” Niza Yanay, Ben Gurion University; “A Time to Hate: Situational Antecedents of Intergroup Bias,”
Phyllis Gerstenfeld, California State University; “Evil and the Instigation of
Collective Violence,” David Mandel, University of Victoria).
4/15-17 The global
community and U.S. foreign policy (“Globalization: A Choice Between Death and
Death,” Jean-Bertrand Aristede; Letter to UN Security Council, Ramsey Clark;
“Interview of Zbigniew Brzezinski,” Le Nouvel Observateur, 1/15/98; “Invaders,” Elaine Sciolino, NYT 9/23/01).
4/22-24 Technology and terrorism. Weapons and communications
Responding to Terrorism: The roles of citizens and states in shaping strategies to
achieve common goals.
4/29-5/1 Living in anxious times. Feeling safe at home (FEMA training manual).
Guest facilitator: Lt. Terry Katz, Westminster Barrack
5/6-8 Freedom vs.
security (White/17; “In Defense of Freedom at a Time of Crisis,” joint
recommendations of 126 U.S. rights organizations).
Film: The Siege.
5/13-15 Policy choices: Reducing the threat of
terrorism. Alternative proposals for
immediate action (“Reflections on September 11; Lessons from Four Psychological Perspectives,” Kevin Lanning; “Responding to September 11:
A Conflict Resolution
Scholar/Practitioner Perspective, Eben Weitzman and Darren
Kew, University of Massachusetts; “From the Best Minds in the World,” Nobel Peace Prize Symposium; “Violence Doesn’t
Work,” Howard Zinn). Read-aloud:
"Thoughts in the Presence of Fear," essay by Wendell Berry.
long-term solutions -- class project presentations.
On reserve for this class at the Learning Resource Center:
Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy: Special Issue
on Terrorism and Its Consequences, The Society for the Psychological Study of
Social Issues 2002.
September 11: Context and Consequences: An Anthology, ed.
Misha Klein and Adrian McIntyre, University of California at Berkeley 2002.
September 11 Terrorism Sourcebook, Vols. 1&2, assembled
for student use by Dr. Deborah Louis, Carroll Community College 2001-2.
Emergency Response to Terrorism, Basic Concepts: Fire and
EMS, training manual currently being used by Carroll County emergency services,
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 2002.
The Common Courage Reader: Essays for an Informed Democracy,
ed. Kevin Griffith, Common Courage Press 2000.
The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama Bin Laden and the
Future of Terrorism, Simon Reeve, Northwestern University Press 1999.
Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, Cindy Combs,
Insurgency and Terrorism: Inside Modern Revolutionary
Warfare, Bard O'Neill, Brasseys, Inc. 1990.
Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs, Noam
Chomsky, South End Press 2000.
In addition, the web page for this class provides links to a
variety of internet resources related to 9/11, the unfolding "war on terrorism,"
and specific subtopics addressed in the course (access through Learning
Resource Center site).
"course objectives" from a teaching standpoint are of course
different from the "objectives" as synthesized for students in the
syllabus--in case these are useful, they are, as extracted from the course
• To familiarize students with the history of terrorism,
U.S. foreign policy, Islam, and conflict in the Mid-East.
• To identify the primary locations, leaders, and
organizations associated with the WTC attack.
• To examine and evaluate the range of policy options
available to the U.S. in response.
• To recognize and evaluate the philosophical underpinnings
of this ideological conflict and of the policy alternatives available to both
sides and their respective allies.
• To explore common concerns about safety, civil liberties,
and intergroup relations within the U.S.
• To understand the psychology of terrorism, for both
perpetrators and victims.
• To distinguish between rhetoric and information in
political speech and reporting.
• To explore the meaning of "responsible
citizenship" in tense and fearful times.
• To acquire lasting frames of reference and critical skills
that will be useful both in subsequent academic pursuits and in interpreting
the political and social environment in which students will continue to live