Words from a President Matter
I have the impression that my previous post, "Facts have no bearing on how one feels", may have been read as "How we feel has no bearing on facts". The two are very different. What often makes education particularly challenging is correcting misconceptions. What we think normally becomes a part of who we are and when what we conceive gets refuted, it appears to be an attack on ourselves. And this is especially true when these misconceptions are intimately connected to our values. For example, Trevors and Duffy have recently found that correcting misconceptions regarding COVID-19 are going to be difficult since these involve moral values and emotions. We already know this with issues like climate change, diversity and inclusion, and gun ownership and violence. All these issues require collective action, but with strongly held misconceptions, corrective measures will simply remain out of reach. The coronavirus pandemic will continue to grip our world, sea levels will not stop rising, systemic racism and inequities will thrive, and senseless violence will remain in headlines.
In the case of COVID-19, the measures necessary to control the pandemic include wearing masks, social distancing, or staying at home. For those who value the well-being of every individual in society; correcting misinformation is a breeze, but for those who value either social ties or personal autonomy; mask wearing, school closures, and stay-at-home orders only harm society. One may frame the corrections to misconceptions by aligning with values held by individuals. As Trevors and Duffy have suggested, wearing a mask can be cast as a demonstration of patriotism. One could only hope that this message is acceptable. But as values normally coincide with ideology, what a particular leader says matters. When Biden says that it is wrong to think that not wearing a mask is masculine, it matters to Biden's supporters. When Trump mocks Biden for wearing a mask on every occasion, it matters to Trump's supporters. Words from a leader matter. Savannah Guthrie therefore has a point when she calls Trump on what he tweets.