Discussing 9/11 and Partisan Polarization with Your Students

Friday, September 10, 2021
draped flags and signs after 9/11

   A scene from the site of the 9/11 attacks. | PBS NewsHour Extra

Talking About Political Polarization and 9/11 with Garrett Graff

It has been two decades since Sept. 11,2001 and we are still learning how the terror attacks shaped our politics, military and sense of national unity. Garrett Graff is the author of the book “The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11.” He also hosts a new podcast called “Long Shadow” about lingering questions after the attacks, and joins Amna Nawaz to discuss its impact. Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. Some students may find it easier to read along with the transcript or turn on closed captions/CC.



Discussion Questions: Garrett Graff Discusses 9/11

  • Who is Garrett Graff what is his background?
  • What is the connection that Graff makes between 9/11 and political polarization?
  • When did politics in the U.S. start to become more polarized, according to this piece?
  • Why is it important to understand the emotional reaction of U.S. citizens on the day of 9/11, according to Graff?
  • How has the sense of national and global unity following 9/11 change, according to this interview?

Focus Questions

  1. What do you think Graff means when he says 9/11 is slipping “from memory into history”? What are your first memories of learning about 9/11 or understanding the day’s events and legacy?
  2. Do you think it’s true that fear is a major driver of politics in the U.S.? Why or why not?

Media Literacy: Do you think this piece did a good job establishing why Graff is an expert on 9/11 and its legacy? What else would you want to know about his work to help bolster his arguments?

Additional Resources

  • Follow this lesson plan, which will be updated with stories throughout the days leading up to the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
  • This resource offers lessons and teaching strategies for discussing 9/11, including an historical timeline of events on or around its anniversary.


Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.