Simon Schama's insights for schools

"We have to contest civilisation's tendency to retreat into tribes of people who look like each other."

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SINCE 9/11 kicked off 2017 with our National Education Conference in Birmingham on the 27th January, where inspiring people from around the country came together to tell a story of how to build a more tolerant, inclusive society, based upon the lessons learned from the events and aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America.

Admiral Lord West opened the conference stating that:

“there can be no doubt that the threat from extremism is greater now than it has ever been, and must be tackled.”

Sara Khan Co-Director of Inspire, an organization working to counter extremism and gender inequality, echoed our Chairman’s words with the message that though we live in challenging times, there is still the great hope for activism, hope and change.

Hanif Qadir, founder of the Active Change Foundation spoke passionately about how young people are increasingly being led to think that if someone hates them, they need to hate them back, which can all too often take the mind down a very dangerous path.

“You can't change a person if you can't reach them. You can't reach them without understanding their issues.”

Alongside our keynote speakers throughout the day, we offered a Q&A panel, which featured Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of Malala Yousafzai who spoke about how invariably, it is those of Muslim faith who are the first victims of terrorism and that as a society, we need to work harder to give equal attention to all attacks of hatred, no matter where in the world they occur.

 “If 20 people are killed in an attack in Pakistan, that should be treated the same as 20 people being killed in Germany.”

Also participating in the panel was Nicky Napier, a former teacher and widow of 9/11 victim Alex Napier. Nicky spoke with grace about her own personal experiences of the consequences of a terrorism, and was so generous in sharing with us her view that although talking about personal stories is both difficult and awkward, it’s important to do so because this human element can allow people, in particular young students to engage with others.

In addition to hearing the views of these inspired keynote presentations we also launched our brand new suite of education materials, such as updated history and citizenship programmes.
Jeremy Hayward from the UCL Institute of Education, with whom we partnered to develop these materials reminded us all that young minds aren't fixed. We heard from pioneering educators, such as Samita Singh  and Kamal Hanif from the Waverley Foundation about how they have used Since 9/11 educational resources in their school.

“Teachers in our school feel they have the go ahead to teach this controversial subject with clarity now they have access to Since 9/11 materials”

"A criticism of education is that it's often not relevant to adult life. Lessons from the Since 9/11 programme could not be more relevant."


Ending our conference, was a piece of beautiful oratory from historian and presenter Simon Schama, who provided us all with his unique perspective on the history of conflict and the importance of tolerance and respect for all faiths and religions. Simon spoke about how history is meant to make you critical and thoughtful. He spoke about the great importance of societal inclusivity and that "We have to contest civilisation's tendency to retreat into tribes of people who look like each other." Ending his presentation, Simon receited No Man is an Island by English poet, John Donne.

 “[History] should keep you up at night questioning your culture”,

We felt incredibly lucky and encouraged to meet with so many inspiring individuals. There will be plenty more from us to come over the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter feeds to learn about how we can all work together to increase tolerance in society by learning about the causes and consequences of the 9/11 attacks.