Date: Jun 4 | Time: 10:30am to 12:00pm | Location: EOSM 135
Chair/Président/Présidente : Gerald Baier (University of British Columbia)
Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Jean-François Savard (École nationale d'administration publique)
Populism, Misinformation and Information Literacy: Paths for Teaching and Research: Pascal Lupien (University of Alberta), Lorna Rourke (St. Jerome's University) Abstract: The failure of the neoliberal economic project to deliver promised benefits to large segments of the population has produced a social and economic crisis. The resulting anxiety provides fertile ground for the emergence of populist movements that pit “The People” (guided by a demagogic leader) against “The Other” in a struggle to restore a mythical Golden Age. One of the factors behind the success of these leaders is the deployment of vast misinformation campaigns that speak to many peoples’ fears and resentment. These efforts are successful when citizens lack information literacy (IL) skills, making them susceptible to manipulation by demagogues. IL—the ability to filter, analyze, and think critically about information—is particularly relevant in the current political climate. Information professionals such as academic librarians are experts in IL, yet they are often relegated to a peripheral role in higher education that involves technical skills related to using databases and finding sources. If information is power and power is at the core of politics, political scientists concerned about creeping authoritarianism would do well to work more closely with those who best understand information. In this paper, we respond to CPSA’s call to consider a variety of analytical visions by asking: how can political scientists and information professionals collaborate to develop research and pedagogy that contribute to achieving a more informed citizenship and promoting a more inclusive democracy? We draw on theory and practices from political science and information science to suggests paths for teaching and research.
“Resistance as Engagement”: Developing Strategies for Student Information Literacy and Activism in a Post-Truth World: Linda Elmose (Okanagan College) Abstract: “Post-truth” was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016. This is a telling indicator of the reality that critical teacher-scholars and activists confront in addressing questions relating to alternate facts and histories, fake news, conspiracy theories, science skepticism and denialism. This paper strives to develop an approach termed “Resistance as Engagement,” which draws from Resistance Theories of Education and Critical Pedagogy (e.g., Giroux, hooks, Freire). In the main, these critical pedagogies advocate creating classrooms as “spaces of resistance” that challenge the socio-economic and political conditions of oppression and marginalization. Building on these approaches, Resistance as Engagement” suggests that higher education instructors should embrace controversy, science skepticism, and even conspiracy theories in the classroom. Opening discussion to these less palatable and non-positivist forms of knowledge can be employed as a way to bolster students’ resistance to and refusal of ubiquitous untruths and misrepresentations they encounter in their everyday lives. The paper discusses strategies such as “teaching to the controversy” (i.e. the creationism vs. evolutionary theory debate in the US), and elicits the benefits of embracing questionable knowledge, namely: teaching about the constructed nature of knowledge and science; affirming knowledge as power; enabling inclusiveness and trust amongst students who harbour unpopular beliefs/information; and discovering how genuine democracy works in practice.
Decolonizing The Core: Transformative Practices In Mandatory Courses: Emily Regan Wills (University of Ottawa) Abstract: Most professors experiment with diversifying and adding new approaches to political science in upper-level courses, where there are more opportunities to teach on topics such as gender, race, or Indigeneity. However, I argue that it is crucial to focus on decolonizing the curriculum at its core in order to open space for the discipline and students to advance new arguments and develop new solutions to political problems. This paper focuses on my experiences with trying to link students to new routes of knowledge by introducing new epistemological practices and centring Indigenous, racialized, and gendered perspectives and approaches into a second-year research methods course, as well as a Ph.D. core seminar in comparative politics. The paper also examines some of the tensions among and between teaching the discipline in ways that are appropriate and reflective of the responsibility to train new practitioners, teaching the paradigms, providing students access to enough epistemological variety to allow them to find their own best routes forward, and teaching to the issues, the latter of which motivate students to care about politics and translate that care into political science.
Community Partnerships in the Classroom.: Clare McGovern (Simon Fraser University) Abstract: How can we bridge the gap between the classroom and the community? This paper evaluates course partnerships with local organizations: concrete examples of the Congress theme of two-way university-community relationships. These projects were key components of 100-level Political Science courses, each with 50-60 students. In the first project, students worked with Elections BC and Samara (a political engagement NGO) to encourage their fellow students to register to vote. In the second project, students worked with the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada to learn about trade deals, leading to a simulated trade negotiation between Canada and Asia-Pacific countries. This paper evaluates the impact of these projects on students’ skills and understanding. Using surveys and focus groups, I find that both projects significantly improved students’ awareness of local political issues. The projects also increased course-specific skills and knowledge: political efficacy, understanding of trade negotiations and knowledge of Canada’s economic links with Asia-Pacific countries. However, the findings raise further questions on the sustainability of such initiatives. These projects were funded through one-off grants. So, is it feasible to routinely embed such projects into first-year classes? I use interviews with the community organizations and the instructor’s teaching journals to explore the trade-offs in such projects. How do we balance student learning with the instructional resources available, while also ensuring practical benefits for the community organizations themselves?