- Dr Michael Johnston writes –
Hate speech and misinformation are both real and undesirable. But trying to curb them through criminal law risks undermining democracy. So what can education contribute to shoring up the foundations of an open society?
What can education contribute to shoring up the foundations of democracy?
According to the Forum on the Future of Local Government, a greater emphasis on Civics, or citizenship education might help. It’s certainly no bad thing for young people to learn about the way our electoral system and government work. But research has shown that Civics education tends to have disappointing results when it comes to political engagement.
Besides, if we want a citizenry that’s truly prepared to participate in democracy, it’s not enough just to teach them how the system works, nor even that they engage when it’s time to vote. Instilling certain values is important too. Foremost amongst these values is a respect for the importance of open debate.
Safeguarding open debate is one of the most important reasons to uphold free speech in a democracy. But free speech remains at risk in New Zealand. Hate speech and misinformation are both real and undesirable. But trying to curb them through criminal law risks undermining democracy. The true foundation of open societies is not voting, but the free exchange of ideas. When people can say what they think without fear of censorship or prosecution, the result is a robust public discourse that leads to better information and more sophisticated ideas.
Continue reading “DR MICHAEL JOHNSON: How can education help our democracy?”