15 Strategies to Mitigate Worldview Threat

Cathryn van Kessel

Identifying the problem of worldview threat is important, but equally important is thinking about how we might mitigate at least the worst of it. Below are some strategies (and as the mobilization of this research continues, strategies may be added, so check back periodically!)

Strategy 1

Conceptualize worldview threat (and associated self-esteem threat) when initially building classroom community, and remind each other during threatening situations. This strategy is the hope of anticipating a threatening situation as well as being metacognitive during.

Strategy 2

Immediate before an anticipated threatening situation, prime students with helpful shared values from the worldviews present in the classroom (e.g., kindness and grace). Importantly, though, this action requires tapping into helpful aspects that not only students might have but also those of whomever you might be talking about. An example might be to mention quotations from the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) about gentleness and mercy, as well as sympathy for those who have been persecuted. Teachers could also engage with a Hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), such as “kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith” (Sahih Muslim).

You can also prime students with what might boost their self-esteem (e.g., having students privately list things that they have done that they are proud of).          Self-esteem helps buffer our existential anxiety.

Strategy 3

Start threatening conversations at a distance from the problem (e.g., the same issue somewhere else, or here but in the past) and then work your way toward talking about the problem today, here, with us.

Strategy 4

Use humour (carefully). Laughter can help us relieve all sorts of anxieties, but be careful not to derogate others or cause further worldview threat. Sigmund Freud (1905) argued that humour is a defence mechanism: “(Humour) scorns to withdraw the ideational content bearing the distressing affect from conscious attention as repression does, and thus surmounts the automatism of defence” (p. 169). Neil Elgee (2003) has written on humour as a defence against death, allowing us to release tension.

For Further Reading/Viewing/Listening

van Kessel, C. (2020, December 5). Considering the emotionality of antiracist education [Webinar]. Alberta Teachers’ Association Diversity, Equity & Human Rights Speaker Series, Edmonton, AB, Canada. https://sched.co/fQaN

van Kessel, C. (2020, October 7). Consider this: How terror management theory helps us understand the pandemic. The Quad.

van Kessel, C., & Saleh, M. (2020). Fighting the plague: “Difficult” knowledge as sirens’ song in teacher education. Journal of Curriculum Studies Research, 2(2), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.46303/jcsr.2020.7

(Created by C. van Kessel, 2021)


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The Grim Educator by Cathryn van Kessel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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