Student-created web site aims to teach awareness, sensitivity toward others

Drawing on videotaped interviews from victims of hate speech and other sources, Ball State University students have created a web site they hope will curb the use of such epithets. The site, Learning from a Legacy of Hate, traces the history of bigotry across the state of Indiana, but its lessons can be applied nationwide as educators struggle to combat the persistence of hate and ignorance in schools. “Our objective is to open people’s minds and hearts to the experiences of others,” say the site’s 15 student developers. “Our goal is to provoke thought and encourage change by challenging people to make a difference in the fight against intolerance.” The interactive web site includes reviews of offensive lyrics and scenes in music and movies, as well as exercises for classroom teachers and interviews with victims. Its designers hope the site will be used by librarians, public officials, religious leaders, and civic organizations, as well as schools, to educate youth about the dangers of personal prejudice. “The voices we don’t hear from, the voices that we could be learning from, are the targets of hate speech,” said Ball State associate professor Beth Messner, who coordinated the project. “Those are the voices we really need to hear from.”

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