Can a liberal education make you a better discerner of truth?
It seems as if we’re awash in information. From the moment we wake until we turn off our phones at night, we are bombarded with images, messages, news and information from a confounding number of sources. The entirety of the world’s collected facts, seemingly left unadulterated only for us to interpret and justify, never feels more than a few taps away.
But as the amount of information available to us increases ever more rapidly, the quality and reliability of this same information seems less credible. It has been suggested that social media has played a role in many powerful movements. Some are social movements such as the Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter, and Idle No More. Others are information movements that have all but flattened the functional media landscape. Russian trollbots, 4chan, Breitbart, and Rebel Media challenge credulity, but they do so by mimicking formats consumers expect of “traditional” media outlets.
Traditional sources of news, both privately and publicly owned broadcasters, already weakened by eroding revenue, cuts to budgets, and shifting demographics, are under sustained attack from those who would wish to damage our ability to hold powerful institutions to account. We assume that in the past news sources employed an approach incorporating a multitude of perspectives, which sought to persuade the public through reason and argument. Perhaps the reporter’s role was neutral with regard to outcome. Today, “alternative”, “fake” or “ideologically” driven news sources compete for audience attention and loyalty, often using emotion to rally people toward a certain political cause or issue. In the face of this, citizens often feel disoriented, unsure of where to turn to understand the world. They report an increasing mistrust in institutions of all kinds, including the courts, government, media organizations, universities, and “experts”.
Academics, meanwhile, have seen their reputations and traditional authorities diminished. They have been accused of being just one more political actor, one more voice in a competitive marketplace of shifting allegiances. Not just their pronouncements, but also their claims to the very norms of the academy—truth, objectivity, disinterestedness, wisdom – have been called into question.
Some believe that those wishing to resist factual erosion within the chaos of information enveloping all segments of society require the intellectual capacity to critically assess the information independently. Ideally, universities provide access to this capacity. But are universities up to the task? What role can universities play in this “post-truth” era? How can we equip our students with the intellectual capacities they need to navigate their way through contradictory, competing, and sometimes confusing claims to truth?
The Department of General Education at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada is inviting papers and panel presentations for our second Liberal Education Conference. This year’s theme is: “Can a liberal education make you a better discerner of truth?” The conference welcomes papers on any theme related to the following broad topic areas:
1. The ‘problem’ of truth
2. Science and the social good
3. Sources of authority, who gets to speak and for whom?
4. Literary texts as responses to falsehoods, how do fictions challenge lies?
5. The tension between the commitment to pluralism and the need for objective standards of truth
We seek abstracts for high-quality papers on the conference’s theme. Papers should be prepared for 20-25 minutes of speaking time, leaving 20-25 minutes for discussion. Panels of up to three presenters should be prepared for 20-25 minutes presentation and 20-25 minutes discussion. Please see below for submission details. We intend to publish proceedings of selected papers on the conference theme.
We request submissions of abstracts of 250 to 500 words prepared for anonymous peer-review. The deadline for receipt of submissions is 5 pm on January 15th, 2018. Decisions will be made by February 1st, 2018. Please send abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘LibEd 2018 Submission’. Attached to the same email, please include a separate cover page that gives the following details:
-Title of Paper or Panel
-Name of presenter(s) or panelists
Please send documents in PDF, Word, or Rich Text format. Submissions and any further inquiries should be sent to email@example.com
Arrangements are being made for accommodations and venue. Registration will be $200.00 Cdn. The registration site will be up early in 2018.
Student participation is welcomed. Students helping to organize the conference will read some of the submissions and offer their feedback. The students will also help notify successful participants, help manage our social media presence, our website (coming soon!) and our Facebook closed group. We expect that students will network with academics and others during and after the conference.