Terrorism: A Constant Threat for our Children. Prof Edith W. King

Terrorism: A Constant Threat for our Children

                                                                                 Edith W.  King, Prof. of Educational Sociology, Worldmindedness Institute, Colorado, USA

 On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean it has become apparent that the threat of a terrorist’s bomb attack is always with us.  Every day the world-wide media brings reports and frightening photographs of the global terrorist violence, destruction and death for innocent civilians, for children and their families.  This occurs in the public market places, the famous shopping mall of Nairobi, Kenya, the churches and mosques of Iraq and Afghanistan.  However, there are also home-grown, domestic  terrorists. They seem able to strike in important city centers such as the 2013 horrific bomb blasts at the Boston marathon in the U.S. and in the public transport of city center London in 2005.  This article begins with a description of the parallels of these two violent and shocking events. Then I present suggestions and advice for teaching awareness about domestic  terrorism in the world today.   

Boston Marathon Bombing of 2013

One year later, April 2014, the US is reminded by the media of the horrible and unprecedented happening in Boston at the world renown Boston Marathon.  Last year as the week of April 15, 2013 unfolded, details and descriptions of the Boston Marathon Bombing filled newspapers, popular media, social media, and daily conversation. Two home-made bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on that April afternoon. The blasts killed three people and injured over 260 others, mostly spectators awaiting the end of the race. It took just several days to identify the bombers.  But during this time, the city center of Boston was virtually shut down with businesses and streets closed and mass transit cancelled.

 With the help of thousands of photos, video images, and other tips, federal, state, and local authorities named the bombers, two brothers — Tamerlan Tsarnaev, age 26 and his brother, 19, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  Both men, Chechen Russian immigrants lived in the Boston area for about 10 years.  Tamerlan died in a shoot-out with police a few days after the bombing.  As they were fleeing, they  ambushed and  murdered  a police officer at the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in nearby Cambridge.  Dzhokhar, was ultimately captured after having suffered many bullet wounds, and taken to the hospital.  After extensive interrogation there he was charged with involvement in the Boston Marathon bombing.  It was reported that the brothers acted alone and were motivated by anger over the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   But as more details became known, it was reported that Tamerlan had spent six months in Dagestan, Chechnya, a troubled, violent, and rebellious region of Russia.  Both brothers were open about their devotion to Islam and indicated their adherence to radical jihad. Articles in the news reports described how the bombs were constructed using instructions from various sources readily available on the Internet.  Further days of media reporting revealed the personal upheaval over the past two years that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was experiencing at the breakup of his family and his disappointment over failure of his future professional career in boxing.   

 Striking Parallels to the London Bombings in 2005

The Boston Marathon Bombings present noticeable parallels with the London Bombings of seven years ago. Terror hit London on July 7, 2005 with disastrous blasts of home-made bombs in Central London on one bus and in three of the Underground train cars. Over fifty innocent people were murdered and hundreds more injured. Trains and transport across the United Kingdom were disrupted for days afterwards. The London bombings (7-7) and the subsequent fears for further terrorist attacks caused anxiety and stress for all – adults, children, British citizens, internationals, and tourists.

Further parallels arise in the descriptions and the histories of the bombers in the London terrorist acts and those of the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston years later.  Profiles of the men in both the London and Boston terrorist incidents described young adult males of ages 18 – 30 years.  Notably, the troubled socialization and school experiences of the radicalized Muslim bombers in London led to bitterness and disaffection, as well as strained relations with family members and the mosques they attended.  Strikingly similar family and religious experiences of the two extremist Muslim Chechen bombers in Boston are recounted in the U.S. media.  Changing identity from mere followers of Islam transformed itself to Islamic jihadism.  Disillusionment and anger against their adopted nation, led to violence and extremism, ultimately, ending with an acceptance of death in the process. These conditions describe the London bombers as well as the Boston Marathon bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Author Lynn Davies in her book, Educating Against Extremism, insightfully explains the terrorist mindset:  She states “the Qu’ranic training camps give a sense of community, brotherhood and belonging.  But there is also the need for a moral certainty, of right and wrong.  The psychic need for rigid structures can lead to a calcified view of human behavior, and a loss of the recognition of its subtle complexities…. “                                   (Davies.  Educating Against Extremism, 2008, p. 39)

Protecting Our Children From Terrorism

How can we as adults  protect our children and prepare them to live in societies where the danger of sudden violence and disruption lurks?   There is a need for teachers and parents to continually search out information and advice for what to do in the face of extremist threats that seem bound to continue.  We can begin by encouraging young people to think about extremism and the  destruction of human life.  We can help young people by listening to their concerns and letting them talk about their anxieties over terrorist acts.  It is vital that children know it is acceptable to talk about their anxieties and fears brought on by extremism. 

 Some other suggestions are:

                 The terrorist attacks in both London and Boston wrought the destruction of human lives with the use of home-made bombs placed in backpacks (knapsacks).  It is no longer a joke to tell others “I have a bomb in my bag.”  This may lead to criminal charges against the “joker.” In our times a taken-for-granted possession such as a backpack or parcel can become the terrorist’s deadly weapon. Young people can be advised to watch out for anyone behaving suspiciously with bags, a package or backpack.  (Articles on the Boston 2013 disaster noted that if the bystanders had reported seeing the bombers placing several backpacks near the finishing line of the marathon the tragedy might have been thwarted)


Many children possess and use mobile or smart phones and several sources give advice about communicating during a major terrorist incident.  The suggestion that in being prepared for emergencies it is wise to keep a list of important phone numbers, those of family or relatives, either on the mobile phone or in writing.  However, we should not phone the emergency number during a crisis since so it can kept open for those responding to the disaste

Educating Against Extremism

Teachers can research information, studies, and recent books on topics such as the relationship of education to extremism. Or how does religious  fundamentalism influence extremists, within nations and across the globe?  Lynn Davies is one academic who is exploring these issues in her writing. Her latest book, Unsafe Gods: Security, Secularism, and Schooling, 2014 (IOE Press/Trentham) is a valuable resource.    In my book Teaching in an Era of Terrorism, (4th edition, 2013,  e-book Amazon: Kindle),  I offer educators and parents of younger children information and ideas on defining terrorism, teaching and talking about bullying -a form of terrorism.  Have you experienced teaching about home-grown terrorists or educating against extremism?  Do you share your ideas and stories with your colleagues and friends.


Davies, Lynn. (2008) Educating Against Extremism. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books

Davies Lynn (2014)  Unsafe Gods:  Security, Secularism, and Schooling.  IOE     Press/Trentham Books.

King, Edith. (2013) Teaching in an Era of Terrorism.  4th edition  Amazon: Kindle

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