I am a regular user of social media. It helps me keep in touch with friends and family all over the world. I have even found people again with whom I had lost contact through the twists and turns of the decades. But I have decided to absent myself from the political discussions that I find there. I will watch but try hard not to participate. Why? Because they are so disheartening.
We choose our friends, and in doing so we insulate ourselves from the more extreme edges of society, the places that are anathema to our own values and views of the world. But online we find ourselves linked in to a much wider and more diverse network as we see the posts of our online friends being responded to by their friends and contacts. From time t to time I have joined in. But no more – if I can help it.
The abuse, intolerance and failure to exercise reasoned judgment that I have encountered online have dismayed me. Never have I been made more aware of the need to teach our students how to think, how to examine evidence, to take in data from all sources, to listen with empathy and understanding to the arguments of others and to express their own thoughtful opinions with clarity and precision.
Let us hope that educators will do a good enough job to ensure that the next generation of voters is more informed, more thoughtful, more analytical and more just. They say that we get the governments we deserve. Our children deserve the best. It is our responsibility to ensure that as they grow and learn they are equipped to choose the best.