The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront many of the most noble aspects of humanity. Health-care professionals and essential workers have worked tirelessly and sacrificially, putting themselves at risk in order to serve others. Scientists have worked with speed and ingenuity to develop treatments and vaccines. Educators have innovated to keep students learning during lockdowns.
Unfortunately, some of the vices of humanity have also been on display. From those trying to turn a profit by hoarding scarce resources, to the tone of discussion around safety protocols, there is much to lament in the response to the pandemic. As someone who has worked in higher education for decades, one aspect of the uproar around the vaccines and the public safety measures has alarmed me: the mistrust of fact-based insight.
We live in an era of suspicion and even outright dismissal of experts. Citing a scholar with a PhD or a peer-reviewed study used to be sufficient grounds for your position. Such authoritative sources are now viewed with mistrust or even derision. This has real-world impacts on lives, as individuals believe and propagate misinformation—with devastating effects.
Proper methodology, scientific inquiry, and rigorous evaluation are foundational to education. In an age where those are not valued, there are inevitable problems for the higher education sector.
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