I don’t want to read one more piece that begins, “In these difficult (unprecedented, challenging, etc.) times,” and neither do you. However, since the world changed, I have serious and long-term concerns about teaching and free expression. Now that the greater part of the K-12 experience has moved online or to other internet based instruction, and at the same time society has become less tolerant of unpopular opinions, I fear that we may be developing a generation of students who do not know how to disagree without becoming disagreeable.
On July 30, 2018, the newly elected Ford government introduced legislation reducing the size of Toronto City Council from 47 to 25 councillors. Bill 5 was enacted in haste on August 14, 2018, about two weeks later.
When there is a news report about books being challenged in a school library learning commons, it is often because the item was removed at the direction of the school or district administration following a parent complaint about a specific book and that the proper ‘Request for Reconsideration’ process was not followed.
Academic freedom, the “cornerstone” of the academy, is always under threat, often in subtle and invidious ways. But sometimes it is under threat in explicit ways, in the form of full-throated calls from members of the public demanding that academics who have publicly taken positions with which they disagree ought to be either disciplined or fired.
As we have seen in recent elections and in the present pandemic, misinformation can do real harm. But the Canadian government’s plan to consider legislation to criminalize the spreading of misinformation is the wrong response. Criminalization will not stop misinformation. In fact, it often draws more attention to it, as well as undermines civil liberties and human rights essential in a democratic society.