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Tackling the Issue of Hate in the Classroom After Charlottesville

The recent outbreak of violence that took place over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia between white supremacists and counter-protesters that left one person dead and many more injured, serves as another reminder of the turbulent times our country is going through.

The stories of racism and hatred in America are nearly inescapable, commanding both attention on television and online, no doubt raising a lot of questions for students of all ages. The social and political fallout from the Charlottesville violence undoubtedly has a lot of teachers navigating waters that might be unfamiliar.

A new Twitter hashtag, #CharlottesvilleCurriculum, has sprung up in the wake of the violence to help educators go about tackling the issue in a constructive manner.

The hashtag was started by writer Melinda D. Anderson, who said she started the hashtag for the simple reason that “a common reaction by educators is, ‘What should I say? Where do I even begin?’”

Discussing such issues with students can be difficult, especially since many teachers try to avoid bringing politically-charged conversations into the classroom. While such issues can be uncomfortable to discuss, it is important that everything from what breeds hatred to freedom of speech and how U.S. history plays into the turmoil of current events, cannot simply be ignored. There is a vast array of resources out there to help teachers approach the issue of race and bigotry from nearly every angle. The American Federation of Teachers has provided a wealth of resources teachers can use for a Charlottesville Curriculum here.

Issues such as racism, xenophobia, religious and sexual discrimination aren’t going away anytime soon. Not talking about these topics with students only makes it easier for prejudice to find its way into schools and manifest into bullying. Tolerance.org has numerous lessons and professional development resources for educators on teaching tolerance available on their website. In response to the tragedy, Newsela announced that all PRO resources related to its Charlottesville article would be available for free. 

To reiterate former President Barack Obama’s tweet of a Nelson Mandela quote over the weekend, "People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." And as educators shaping the young minds of today that will lead tomorrow, it’s important that students learn about hate, not to hate.

 

Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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