April 19 will mark the 20th anniversary of the 1995 bombing that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.
Killing 168 people, it is the most deadly case of domestic terrorism in American history, and was the most deadly terrorist attack until 9/11.
In July 2010, House Bill 2750 went into effect, requiring by law that Oklahoma schools teach about the bombing as part of their history and social studies core curriculum.
When former Gov. Brad Henry signed the bill into law on April 6, 2010, he said it is important for school children who had been born after the bombing to learn about one of the events that has shaped Oklahoma’s history more than most others.
“We owe it to the victims, the survivors and all of the people touched by this tragic event to remember April 19 and understand what it meant and still means to this state and this nation,” Henry said at the bill signing ceremony at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.
The museum has become a gateway for students to learn about the bombing.
The museum has exhibits dedicated to different parts of the bombing, including a room that plays a recording of what it sounded like from a nearby building, scientific findings of how the building’s structure was impacted by the explosion, and a remembrance area for those injured or killed.
The museum states on its website that educating people about the bombing in particular, as well as violence prevention in general, is their top priority. The website also states that its leadership was integral in helping pass House Bill 2750.
Section 1B of House Bill 2750 allows use of resources provided by the museum to help educate students. One of the ways the museum does this is by allowing schools to apply for the Educational Enrichment Grant, which if accepted, would allow schools to bring students on field trips to the museum free of charge.
The next section of the bill, Section 1C, requires that history textbooks be evaluated to ensure that they appropriately teach about the bombing and its effect on Oklahoma history.
An example of this is the American Pageant, a college-level textbook published by Cengage Learning, which is commonly used in Advanced Placement U.S. History courses in high schools. The book contains a picture and graphic to go along with a paragraph about the bombing.
The book mentions Timothy McVeigh as the responsible party, McVeigh’s motivations for the bombing, specifically the 1993 Waco Siege of the Branch Davidians compound, and that his execution was the first by the federal government in roughly 40 years.
Some students feel that is not enough.
Erica King, Aerospace Engineering major, said while she was in high school, very little was taught about the bombing.
“They should definitely teach more about it,” she said. “I hardly remember any of it.”
Psychology major Ryan Harter said the subject is covered appropriately.
Harter attended ASTEC Charter Schools in Oklahoma City.
“We never went to the memorial museum in school,” he said. “But every year in middle school and high school, there was a … day about it.
“One day of thoughtful remembrance is appropriate. Focusing on the negative things too much inhibits progress.”
Andrea Bonilla, diversified studies major, who also attended ASTEC, agreed.
“I think that schools do a sufficient job of teaching about that day,” she said.
“By the time students enter high school, they’ve been taught about the event a few times, so it makes sense that it’s mostly just a day of remembrance.”
Oklahoma City Public Schools social studies curriculum is overseen by Peter Brown. OKCPS curriculum directors have their curriculum maps and plans on okcpssecondarycurriculum.weebly.com. For more information, Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find other school systems’ curriculums, visit your local school system’s website.
To contact Clayton Mitchell, email email@example.com