One of the most difficult things a teacher may have to do is explain an act of terrorism, while simultaneously trying to reassure their students. Rather than wait for the next horrible event, prepare your students ahead of time.* Terrorism loses much of its political power when it ceases to terrify.
Begin by assigning our World History B Case Study: Modern Terrorism, explaining the causes and methods of the different types of modern terrorism. Understanding that groups and individuals have specific agendas that they are trying to advance through the use of carefully targeted violence won’t lessen the shock, but it can help people make decisions that are based on facts rather than fear.
Further resources for studying terrorism are available:
- the University of Maryland, which maintains the Global Terrorism Database
- the RAND Corporation, which maintains the RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents
- the National Institute of Justice, which maintains the Terrorism Databases for Analysis
- and this controversial report from the Department of Homeland Security on rightwing terrorism (.pdf) in the United States (it was suppressed on release, but the Federation of American Scientists has made it available)
Encourage critical thinking by making note of the differing methodologies and definitions these databases use — do your students agree that the reasoning is sound? Are there incidents of which they are aware that have not been included in any of these databases? What should the criteria for inclusion be?
*Ironically, this post was in the process of being researched when the shootings in Charleston occurred. These events happen more often than we’d like.