A Teachable Moment for the Ages

As “teachable moments” go this is one for the ages.

Today in lower Manhattan, on a morning as clear and bright as another morning nearly twelve years ago, a team of construction workers affixed a spire to the top of a building.  The Freedom Tower is now at its full height of 1,776 feet.


It is well worth stopping whatever we are doing in any classroom in America – in every classroom in America – and asking our kids if they understand the significance of the building’s name and its designed height.

There are at least two good lessons in this moment.  One is about the symbolic value of 1776 and the name “Freedom Tower.”  But the larger lesson is in the spirit of resilience embodied in all that has occurred at this site from September 11, 2011 through today.  On a site where thousands died, we did what Americans do:  first there was a rescue effort.  Next, a memorial was built to remember those who were lost.  Finally we went about the business of rebuilding.  By placing on the site of the deadliest attack on our nation’s soil a 1,776 foot tall structure with the name of our principal civic value, we demonstrated just a bit of another time-honored American trait: defiance.



  1. matthew says:

    Well said Robert.

    for extra credit, the teacher or school could take the kids into the trade offs with the cost/aesthetic of the original Liebskind design, the challenges in zoning approval and managing different stakeholder desires, finding tenants. It’s easily an 8-week unit and all very current and interdisciplinary.

    • Matthew makes a great point in so far as projects within a community whether they are a skate park or gleaming tower require involvement of citizens in making the change a reality. Knowing how to get involved is perhaps one of the least understood aspects of modern life.

Leave a Comment