Should we always blame someone when something goes wrong?

Feb 14, 2021

EDU Resources

Is there always someone to blame when something goes wrong?


The Hillsborough memorial, dedicated to the 96 victims of the 1989 "Hillsborough Disaster" (Photo: Dave Pickersgill / Hillsborough Memorial / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons).

The Hillsborough memorial, dedicated to the 96 victims of the 1989 “Hillsborough Disaster” (Photo: Dave Pickersgill / Hillsborough Memorial / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons).

Two tragic disasters and their connection to citizenship education

What do we mean when we think of blame? Is there always a person or a group of persons to be blamed when disasters happen? This activity uses sources connected to the Heysel Stadium Disaster of 1985 and the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989 to help students debate these questions. In answering the questions, students not only develop social and civic competences related to dialogue, debate, and discussion, but understand the connection between sport and society, especially when it comes to sports as outlets of protests.

Sport and its history are more than just scorelines. That is something I have always believed, and as a teacher I know how much sport engages my students. During the 1970s and 1980s in Britain, hooliganism took hold and football was at risk of disappearing because of the violence committed by fans. Two major events in the 1980s were the Heysel Disaster in 1985, and the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989. These two tragedies tell us a story that goes beyond football: they tell of social disorder, political tensions and difficult ethical questions. Having taught these two lessons to my classes, it led to interesting discussions, passionate debates, and the learners being challenged to consider their own stances on the issues. I recommend it! – Gareth Thomas, History Teacher and one of The Football History Boys.

Analysing sources to engage with a difficult topic

This activity has been developed by Gareth Thomas for younger students, aged 11 to 13. By analysing newspaper articles and photos of the time, students engage with the events of 1985 and 1989, ultimately approaching the difficult ethical concepts of blame and forgiveness. The source analysis and the construction of the arguments for classroom discussion are guided by accessible and ready-to-use worksheets and guiding questions, with which students also learn how to approach sources and assess their reliability.

Laying the foundations for high quality debate and discussions

We recommend you to use this activity with students who are learning how to have quality discussions and debates in the classroom, how to build their arguments, and how to analyse sources. From this practical example, students will develop social and civic competences that will allow them to engage, in the future, in discussions about blame, violence, and related narratives of inclusion and exclusion.

Access the resource

You can find this ready-to-use activity on the eLearning Platform Historiana. The activity has been developed by Gareth Thomas, one of The Football History Boys. We interviewed Gareth and Ben (Jones, other half of the Football History Boys) in May 2020. In the interview, which you can find here, we talk about hooliganism, women’s game, how to engage pupils, and all things football and education. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them with questions on the activity and with your experience using it in the classroom! You can find them on Twitter.

Article Tags:   20th century  |   fans  |   politics  |   teaching  |   values

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