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Scholastic Teaches Media Deception ABC's 911
September 2006

Dear Teacher of Social Studies, grades 9-12

As you know, Scholastic has provided to teachers and students information, background, and explanations of current U.S. and world issues since our first Scholastic magazine was published in 1920 by my father, M.R. Robinson, the founder of our company.

Since then, Scholastic has explained the contemporary world in a clear, understandable way that is balanced and free of bias. Our mission is well-captured in our credo and editorial platform which includes the statement: "Good citizens may honestly differ on important public questions. We believe that all sides of the issues of our times should be fairly discussed—with deep respect for facts and logical thinking—in classroom magazines, books and other educational materials used in schools and homes."

We also strongly believe that students should discuss the important issues of the day in classrooms so that they may gain the critical thinking skills which will help them become participating citizens and voters.

In that context, because the ABC docudrama The Path to 9/11 will be watched by many people in the U.S., including some of your students, we believe we should provide you with teaching ideas and background information on this series which will provide a "teachable moment" for an important issue of our time.

This program is highly controversial because:

  • 1. As a docudrama, it contains imagined scenes that some of the political figures who lived through the period say are misleading and inaccurate.
  • 2. It is an emotional portrayal of a period leading up to one of the searing events of our time—one which I personally witnessed first-hand from our Scholastic offices (less than a mile from the World Trade Center site). Several of our employees' family members died in the attack.
  • 3. It is being broadcast in a period just before the 2006 elections. A major election issue is the relationship between terrorism, the war in Iraq, and other conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan. As such, The Path to 9/11 is viewed by some as political and partisan.

The events leading up to 9/11 are important issues of our time. The docudrama, which covers the background of the period 1993-2001, is said to be largely based on the 9/11 Commission Report, and former Governor Tom Kean, Chair of the 9/11 Commission, is an advisor to the series.

We posted a discussion guide on Wednesday, August 23, which we believe was not in keeping with our high standards—and we took down that guide on Wednesday, September 6. We have rewritten this guide to focus more sharply on the issues of the docudrama as well as the background events.

The guide helps teachers to discuss these important questions:

  • 1. What are the matters of dispute in the docudrama? What are the scenes that were altered or did not happen? How do these scenes affect your understanding? Are the changes part of an effort by the producers to shape your beliefs about these events? In your view, is this an appropriate way to treat an event such as this?
  • 2. What are the different views of the relationship between the attacks of 9/11, the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan, and the unrest in the Middle East? Many people believe that there is no connection between Iraq and the events of 9/11. Others believe that the broadly defined "War on Terror" justified the invasion of Iraq. As you study the background of events leading up to and following 9/11, what do you think?
  • 3. There is a long history of conflict in the Middle East. How well do you understand each of the countries involved and what influences their behavior?

We believe that the rewritten discussion guide presented herewith will help your students interpret the ABC docudrama, The Path to 9/11, and hope that you will find it helpful in understanding the relationship between facts and drama, and the background of the different views about 9/11 in the U.S. and around the world.

Richard Robinson
Chairman, President and CEO

Original Text