Anti-Semitism and conspiracy ideologies in schools

School is an important societal institution and a place of socialisation for children and adolescents. But schools are not spared from extreme right-wing, racist, right-wing populist and anti-Semitic sentiments. That is why it is all the more important that a school’s pedagogical staff are sensitised for these topics and feel confident in their actions.

A prospective teacher once contacted us at the MBR and was looking for advice on how to deal with the following situation: Two students in his history class had approached him as other students in the class chat group had shared images depicting scenes that were anti-Semitic and conspiracy-ideological in nature. The prospective teacher was wondering how to deal with the situation.

How does the MBR provide support in a case like this?

First, the MBR evaluated the content (memes and images) with the teacher. Then, we discussed whether to consider the incident as provocation, as unreflected interaction with anti-Semitic and conspiracy-ideological content or whether there were indications that the students who posted the images held actual anti-Semitic views. Indications could include repeated anti-Semitic or conspiracy-ideological comments made by students, which would then require additional input from the teaching staff. The classroom community and the entire school environment were also included in the analysis: How have teachers reacted to these types of incidents in the past? How aware is the teaching staff of anti-Semitic and conspiracy-ideological behaviour? How are these or similar types of incidents handled within the school? Is there a support network among teachers and the heads of school?

Based on the analysis, we developed various approaches and ideas with the prospective teacher. These included discussions with individual students, focused units on anti-Semitism in the context of conspiracy myths and a focus on strengthening digital competencies as well as involvement of external education providers who organise topical projects and project days at the school. The objective was not only to address the students who posted the images but to empower the entire class community in their democratic attitude. Training and collegial consultations, e.g. offered by the MBR, can also help the staff to become more aware and confident in dealing with such incidents.