Following the death of wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden at the hands of the U.S. military, this brief guide can be used to engage students and spark discussion during a student advisory period or group mentoring session; or as part of a social studies, history, current events, media/journalism or psychology class.
Grade level: 9-12
Student learning objective
Students are able to view with a critical eye the American celebration over the death of Osama bin Laden, considering both the positive and negative effects his death may have on (1) those who lost loved ones on 9/11, and (2) the future safety of Americans, should retaliatory acts of terrorism occur. Students also consider what message the world has received from American reaction to this incident, and in a larger sense, whether acts of military vengeance tend to increase or decrease the probability of future violence.
1. Consider this quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind." For more on the teachings of Gandhi, see Mahatma Gandhi’s 5 Teachings to Bring About World Peace.
2. Consider these quotes from two families who lost loved ones in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Quotes are excerpted from the Death Penalty Information Center.
3. Consider the following news articles that analyze the long-term impact of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Included in some of these are warnings of the danger of terrorist retaliation for bin Laden's death.
Al-Qaida will seek revenge: Death of Osama bin Laden not the end of 'war on terror'
World Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death
The Price Tag of the Sept. 11 Attacks
Sept. 11: The Day the American Decline Began
4. Consider the article “An Alternative to War,” by Michael Ratner and Jules Lobel. The article and many other excellent resources are contained in the report War, Terrorism and Our Classrooms, available from Rethinking Schools.
5. Consult the EducationWorld resource Timeline of Terror for a history of significant terrorism-related events over the decade 2001-2011, and read the text of President Obama’s address to the nation regarding the death of Osama bin Laden.
Introducing discussion to students
I know you’ve probably seen a lot in the news about the death of Osama bin Laden. We’re going to explore what this incident means for us as a nation and think about ways in which different groups might interpret the event differently. We’re also going to talk about the concept of vengeance and consider whether there are both positive and negative effects of vengeance.
Options for student discussion questions