I have been wondering how we teach our children the importance of facts, logic and scientific proof in this era of post-truth politics. A time when people can appear on television and tell lies and deny facts with apparent absolute conviction – and get away with it.
I remember an incident many years ago when a Jamaican work colleague told me that if a man and a woman went for the same job the man should always get it even if the woman was better qualified. I tried all my powers of reason and logic to persuade him otherwise, to no avail. In the end I said, “Actually, you have a point, Vince, because I think that if a black man and white man went for the same job the white man should always get it.” He was (quite rightly) appalled and correctly accused me of prejudice but was still blind to the prejudices he was displaying. At that point I realized that some attitudes and outlooks are so deeply ingrained that no amount of logic is going to shift them. You can’t fight emotion with logic. Yet all our teaching is based on logic and facts (not alternative facts) So are we sending our children powerless into the future armed only with scientific thought and common sense – attributes that I used to think would combat all?
Perhaps we need to teach our children to truly listen and discuss (not just wait for a break in the conversation to put forward your view, as I tend to do). Only by really understanding another person’s thoughts can we “see where they are coming from” and perhaps adjust their thinking slightly.
Having watched children take part in more Roamer activities than I care to count I can now identify the groups that are likely to come up with successful/innovative solutions. It is not the group with the one dominant child who takes over while the others sit back. It is the group where they are all contributing and all listening. This sort of cooperative learning develops powerful social skills where individual contribution to the team produces the greatest rewards.
We recently developed our Roamer Peace Activities (remember Roamer is the only robot in the world to have signed the European Pledge to Peace). These activities require students to find a way to get apparently opposing attitudes to meet.
So maybe that’s it. We don’t give up on the pursuit of truth and scientific endeavour but we also encourage the development of cooperation, discussion and listening skills. But as for politicians…