Fake news, the value of education, the cost of ignorance, and bidding wars on social media clicks all added to the mix when science communicator and media personality Dr Karl Kruszelnicki AM addressed staff via Zoom.
Dr Karl challenged the belief that “education is too expensive” by asking: “What’s the cost of ignorance?” adding that social media has led to the spread of disinformation for profit.
Every time someone clicks on something on their phone, companies use algorithms to profit from the “slice and dice” of our online behaviour, and then to channel advertisements and gain further profit.
He said children’s access to mobile phones and computers exposed them to a host of information disseminated for profit, and that fake news spreads six times faster than real news, adding to global ignorance and allowing deceit and manipulation to prosper.
He presented education as an antidote, saying education led to knowledge and healthy scepticism. He shared facts to show that education created wealthier and healthier people, unlikely to end up in jail, and likely to be good citizens in a good society.
Dr Karl said despite the proliferation of bad news, which spreads quickly due to our innate interest in danger and change, we are living in the most peaceful time in the history of the human race.
He shared the motto of his father’s university, “the State glories in the educated citizen”, and quoted from Alexander Pope’s poem, A Little Learning.
A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
He also spoke of the value of critical thinking as a way of helping students distinguish between truth and lies.
IGS teacher Dr Bruce Dennett commented that his Year 9 and 10 Critical Thinking for the 21st Century students spent a term looking at the media and fake news, considering Plato’s distinctions between knowledge and belief, and interrogating arguments together.
“What endured with them was the capacity to listen to one another,” Dr Dennett said. “Our course takes real world situations and gets back to Plato. It’s been working.”
In further discussion, Bibliothèque Assistant Director Patrice Marchbank said IGS children were encouraged to engage with the complex information ecology, rather than fear and avoid technology.
“One of the fun things we like to do with the Primary kids is to ask them to find out how long it took to build the Harbour Bridge,” Ms Marchbank said. “Rich discussions help them look under the hood.”
IGS Principal Shauna Colnan thanked Dr Karl and teachers, saying that students’ relationship with their teachers, and the respect they felt for them, was at the heart of “beautiful work”.