Surge in hate speech has educators concerned
- Since the beginning of the school year, there have been a growing number of reports of racially-motivated incidents and hate speech, though this increase is hard to verify because of a lack of hard statistics, increased media focus on such incidents, and a number of fake reports.
- However, a UCLA survey conducted at the end of the 2016-17 school year and released last month revealed that about 28% of teachers reported an increase in students making derogatory remarks about other groups during class discussions.
- Though some blame the so-called “Trump Effect” for such incidents, other experts feel that broader pre-existing conditions are to blame.
While the actual number of incidents of hate speech and whether or not it is increasing seems to be the matter of some debate, the reality is that racially motivated incidents of this kind should not be allowed to occur at all, especially in a school environment. Schools can be the agent of change in this matter if they teach tolerance as a part of social-emotional learning and also use civics classes to teach civil discourse. Racial diversity is a part of the glorious “melting pot” that is America, and educators must find ways to help students talk about race in the classroom in a safe environment.
While some blame the problem on the lack of civil discourse in American politics, the answer may lie more in the realm of social media where most students live. There has been an increase in racist and derogatory hate speech on social media, with some studies indicating that roughly 10,000 tweets a day are racist or derogatory messages. However, a deeper dive into these reveals that up to 70% of these messages were used in ways that were not likely meant to be insulting, but were rather racist terms appropriated by the groups they were meant to represent, and which were commonly used in modern cultural settings.
If there were ever a time to teach respect for one another in all aspects of life, it is now. Even racist terms used in a cultural context can get out of hand. In the meantime, schools need to develop adequate social media guidelines to protect themselves and students in situations where freedom of speech is used as a weapon against someone else.