The recent ‘truck’ convoy was very disturbing for many reasons, not the least of which was the ignorance around how the Canadian federal/provincial/municipal governments work. Although supposedly, in the beginning, it was about vaccine mandates, few seemed to appreciate that this was a provincial jurisdiction not federal. More frightening than the lack of scientific literacy, this ignorance has serious ramifications for democracy and its processes. Apparently, the majority of ‘protestors’ get their news from social media, which only serves to reinforce homophilic bubbles around misinformation and disinformation fuelling anger and mistrust.
Even more disturbing is a new survey of almost 3,600 North American students finding that social media is a significant source of information for the students—one-third of whom question if the holocaust is fabricated or exaggerated, or are unsure of facts. A failure of learning from history dooms us to repeat the mistakes of the past, but not even knowing the history is an even more dangerous precedent fuelling populism.
As an educator, I feel a profound sense of failure on two fronts—our seeming inability to counter the power of social media to reinforce ignorance and our even greater failure to communicate the urgency of not acting on the climate crisis. We need to seriously re-examine what and how we are teaching and to return to being public intellectuals committed to sharing our research as widely as possible to the communities in which our institutions are embedded.
Written by Professor Ann Dale
Photo by pixelshot from Canva