The AMeLiE project (Advanced Media Literacy Education to counter online hate-speech) conducted a series of meetings across Europe among selected teachers to identify the main and most relevant issues, nodes and problems in relation to the phenomenon of online hate. This series of meetings was useful to identify the training needs of teachers in order to structure a training course for them to be able to fight online hatred at school with their students.
The methodology chosen to conduct these meetings was the coaching circle, an innovative and particular method of conducting a group discussion devised by Professor Otto Scharmer of MIT in Boston. This methodology aims to generate a constructive and fruitful discussion in which there are no incorrect answers or wrong reactions, on the contrary, everyone’s contribution is fundamental! The only wrong attitude is that of those who think they are always right and have the answer to all problems!
In the framework of the AMELIE project we have realised 9 coaching circles all over Europe between February and April 2021:
-2 in Italy
-3 in Greece
-2 in Romania
-2 in Germany
In total we involved:
20 schools/training institutes
7 case givers (the one(s) leading the coaching circle)
What emerged from these Generative Discussion Meetings?
Here are some of the contributions extracted from the final report of these meetings:
[…] Online hate speech is the result of a mix between personal frustration and bad education, furthermore, the online environment transmits a false impression of being anonymous. Within this framework, self-control disappears and aggressive manners increase.
As Internet seems to be chaos where no borders and boundaries are set.
Hate speech is dangerous and interesting at the same time as language reflects how and who we are, it is a reflection of a whole society: how and how much do we discriminate? Discrimination is not an innate characteristic of a person but is learned; this is the reason why it is extremely important to involve parents in attending learning programmes to sensitize them in this field.
[…] There is a huge difference between freedom of speech and hate speech: genocide, holocaust, racism, homophobia etc. are trivialized and not taken seriously there. We need to remember that just because a person belongs to a minority or a group marginalized this does not mean it cannot be the perpetrator.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also enlarged the phenomenon of cyberbullying among students and school communities. This is proof of how is important add these themes in school programmes.
All participants (teachers) shared the necessity to engage and take action against hate speech but a sense of inadequacy is common among these educators. There is an urgent necessity of teaching responsible and conscious use of digital devices, tools, social, App. Moreover, as hostile behaviour is a learned behaviour, and when there is no intervention in hostile behaviour during the early years a wrong frame of mind is being consolidated, it is commendable to start teaching online respect from the elementary school age.
Training and education programmes on media literacy are needed. Currently, the scholastic system has no tools for fighting online hate speech.
What school communities could or should do?
Virtual is ever more real and the difference among those dimensions is slowly disappearing. This framework is worrying if we take into consideration the quantity of violence and hate existing online. Sexism, racism, judgmental hate populate the web pages and convey the sensation of a rude, hard, unpredictable, and unsafe world.
Schools have to promote and stimulate critical thinking, civic and human rights, develop gender studies programmes, such as the history of the LGBT community, and introduce issues regarding minorities. School programmes should activate positive thinking, positive attitude spreading an empathic approach activating processes that allow students to be in the shoes of victims. Respect and inclusion should be part of school curricula. Additionally, school regulations should be clear and strict in regards to the consequences towards a member/s of the school community that decides to turn against others offensively; this will allow building a more influential, strong, and effective school environment.