Lesson plan: ‘Inoculating our children against fear and hatred’

    Waging Nonviolence article: Inoculating Our Children Against Fear and Hatred by Frida Berrigan
    Inoculating our children against fear and hatred

    Themes: Courage, Prejudice, Bullying

    Target age group: high school (ages 14-18)

    Pre-reading: Ask students to skim the article and look up the words they don’t know (examples: inoculate, hermetic).

    Reading: Set aside time in class to read the article (10-15 minutes) or assign the reading for homework the night before class.

    Supplementary activity: Listen to Glynn Washington’s story in his own words on the Snap Judgement podcast from NPR (referenced in the article; Glynn’s story runs from 0:00-6:00) NOTE: Use the podcast and ask the student to take notes to improve listening and note-taking skills

    Post-reading discussion questions:

    1. In this article, a medical metaphor is used to explain violence as a disease to be inoculated against. What are the strengths of using this metaphor (how does this help us explain violence)? What are the weaknesses in using this metaphor (where does this explanation fall short)?

    2. As the end of the article, the author writes “Isn’t this the real disease? Isn’t this the real dirty, ugly germ cluster that we need to inoculate our children against? Isn’t protecting our kids from this disease more important than sanitizing their toys?” Is it possible to protect children (or people in general) from racism, sexism, homophobia, fear, and hatred? If so, how? If not, why not?

    3. How are fear and hatred connected? How does this connection help us to understand the relationship between racism, sexism, and homophobia?

    4. What does it mean to be courageous? Where do you see courage in this story?


    1. Glynn Washington is the victim of bullying at one point in the story. Later, he passively witnesses others bully his friend until he moves his backpack for her. How does this illustrate that we can all be bullies, victims, and bystanders at different times?

    Sit in a circle and create a safe environment for sharing in the classroom. Ask your students to think about a time when they were:

    • The bully/perpetrator of violence
    • A bystander (witnessed but didn’t do anything) to bullying or another form of violence
    • An upstander (you stood up in the face of violence for what was right, without using violence)

    Ask the students to journal about each topic (another option – have them draw the scene). Then leave some time for sharing. Discuss the role of nonviolence in standing up for yourself or others in the face of prejudice, hatred, sexism, or homophobia.

    English Language Arts Extensions:

    1. Choose two sentences from the story and rewrite them in your own words.

    2. Consider the author’s writing style. For example, she starts the story with a line of dialogue and writes from the first person point-of view. What do you notice about her style? How do her choices help to tell her story?

    3. Compare Glynn Washington’s story both as told by the article’s author and in his own voice (in the podcast.)  What elements of the podcast make the story more powerful?

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