Helping Students Deconstruct Hate-based Narratives

Online workshop at EuroClio’s Annual Conference

On November 19, 2020 GCP’s Education Team led a workshop on “The Limits of Multiple Perspectives: Deconstructing Hate-based Narratives,” as part of EuroClio’s (the European Association of History Educators) annual conference, which took place online this year. There were 30 participants in our session from 20 countries, including from all parts of Europe as well as New Zealand, Lebanon, and the United States. Participants of our session included teachers of history, sociology and humanities, teacher trainers, historians and researchers, curriculum developers, and NGO and museum staff.  Here are some of the things we covered.

    Is This Hate Speech?

    Using an interactive poll, we presented a series of real life examples and asked participants to decide whether it was hate speech. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was no consensus – showing that it is often quite difficult to agree on what exactly hate speech is. This is because the line between hate speech and free speech can be a thin one and different countries have different levels of tolerance. For example, some countries have different consequences based on whom the hate speech is directed towards. In Some places, critical or negative speech directed towards the government may be deemed illegal. In addition, there are questions surrounding whether popularity or reach of a message should be a part of determining whether a statement qualifies as hate speech.

      Online Hate Speech and Hate Group Strategies

      As a group, we then brainstormed some of the challenges to regulating online hate speech including the anonymity and accountability of authors and the mainstreaming of fear, blame, or hate-based messages. We also presented five of the main strategies that hate groups use to spread their messages and facilitated group work during which participants brought specific examples of hate speech from their own contexts and connected these to the strategies. They also identified other strategies that hate groups use, like the use of conspiracy theories.

      How Can We Challenge Hate Speech?

      Ending on a positive, action-oriented note, we discussed what teachers can do to help students navigate multiple perspectives while being resilient to hate online. Tools and strategies included:

      • Setting up ground rules for dialogue on and off-line
      • Developing digital literacy skills
      • Shifting discussions on hate speech versus free speech to rights of the victim as opposed to the perpetrator
      • Using social media to humanize and learn about non-dominant perspectives from narratives, stories, documentaries, and digital art forms

      Finally, teachers can also challenge their students to think about what a healthy online community would look like, keeping in mind the following:

      • What are the rights and obligations of its members?
      • How can we create spaces of belonging where diversity is valued and identity is recognized as intersectional and complex, and where members can be driven by empathy and curiosity?
      • How do we create schools that provide spaces for community and belonging, purpose and meaning?

      During this workshop, we were inspired by the commitment, creativity, and dedication of these teachers when faced with the seemingly unsurmountable challenge of online hate. For more resources on this topic, check out our Google doc that includes teacher’s guides, lesson plans, articles and activities. We will be continuously updating it.

      If you are unable to access it, please email us at [email protected].