Extremism in a classroom: topics discussed and Estonian teachers' experiences and self-reflective choices

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Heidi Maiberg
Alar Kilp


Violent acts motivated by extreme interpretations of ideologies (right-wing, left-wing, religions, etc.) catch a lot of attention and cause serious deep emotions such as fear, hate, uncertainty, support polarization of society, and stigmatization of certain people, things, and societal groups. However, little attention has been given to how educators have addressed issues of violent radicalisation, extremism and terrorism with their students. According to Vallinkoski et al., 2021 as schools are one of the primary settings where most children spend their time, educators are needed to help children foster these (critical media reading and interpreting skills) skills to support students in understanding the reasons behind and aftermath of extremist events.

This article gives overview of the results of a pilot study focusing on Estonian educators' experiences with discussing and tackling extremism in a classroom. The study examines educators' experiences in discussing topics related to extremism with students and colleagues and an overview of topics that students have raised. It also answers whether educators self-censorship themselves in discussing topics related to extremism and if so, what are the reasons for doing that. The study's questionnaire is created based on a similar study conducted in Finland by Vallinkoski, Koirikivi and Malkki (2021) with the permission of the authors and with adaptions for the Estonian context. The study results show that Estonian teachers discuss the extremism-related context in classroom by their and students' initiative. While doing it, they face difficulties in defining 'extremism', understanding how to interpret the students reactions and ideas, and when to contact further counterparts.


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How to Cite
Maiberg, H., & Kilp, A. (2022). Extremism in a classroom: topics discussed and Estonian teachers’ experiences and self-reflective choices . Society Register, 6(1), 107-128. https://doi.org/10.14746/sr.2022.6.1.06
Author Biographies

Heidi Maiberg, Royal Holloway, University of London

Heidi Maiberg is a PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London, focusing on deradicalisation and disengagement of extremists and an employee of the University of Tartu. In her dissertation, she investigates the impact of the methods currently used to support deradicalisation and disengagement. She also researches developments of Estonian and Baltic right-wing milieu, and ways how education can support prevention of extremism. Her PhD is funded by Estonian Education and Youth Board through Kristjan Jaak scholarship. Previously, she has been a project manager in the third sector, head research assistant in several research at a project funded by CREST, worked at the Estonian Ministry of the Interior, and as a teacher of history, societal and religious studies. 


Alar Kilp, University of Tartu

Alar Kilp (PhD, 2012 in political science) has been a lecturer in Comparative Politics at the University of Tartu (Estonia) since 2004. His research specializes in religion and politics, comparative politics, scholarship of teaching and learning in Political Science. He has co-edited a special issue on ‘Religion, the Russian Nation and the State: Domestic and International Dimensions’ (Religion, State and Society 2013) and published articles in Religion, State and Society, Studies in Church History and Proceedings of Estonian National Defence College. His recent papers on religious nationalism, European normative power, religion and soft power, religious authority, Euro-secularism and legal regulation of same-sex relations have appeared in volumes published by Brill and Routledge. In Estonian academic journals he has published articles on feedback papers as a means of learning-centered teaching, democratic education and scholarly teaching. In international conferences he has presented papers on discussion-based teaching and teaching threshold concepts in Political Science.



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