Empowering Retirees to Combat Misinformation & Hate – A Role to Play!

by Ron Jeffery B.Ed, M.Ed. Wellness Committee Member

World events (Middle East; Ukraine; Pandemic) and events in Canada more recently have raised concern over how our senior adult population and retirees may be impacted by what we are all witnessing. In this era of global connectivity, misinformation is endangering stability and how we relate and act towards one another. Our democratic values are being challenged.

Are we sensitive to our ARTA membership who may be impacted by current events? Our Muslim and Jewish members? Is this impacting on the mental health of those affected?

Is there a role we can play? Should we be vocal? Are there strategies we can employ?

As seniors, we have had life experiences that have shaped our lives, the lives of our families, and the role and impact we have had on those whom we have taught. Living through conflicts and political upheavals has shaped our view of the world and a recognition of the consequences of remaining silent or receiving/disseminating misinformation.

Our members are as diverse as the students in our classrooms – with multiple ethnicities and religions reflected. Thus, issues of recent increasing immigration from in particular, war-torn regions of the world; family who may be living in regions of current conflicts and thus resulting in worry and concern daily; increasing incidents of both Antisemitism and Islamophobia – have raised the spectre of hate — not just in other parts of the world, but in our own country and communities.

The world and society appear angry, and values of tolerance and understanding are being challenged by actions that are anathema to democracy and freedom. Our very democratic institutions that wars have been fought to establish and protect have become suspect by the citizens they are meant to protect. The polarization of ideology has become embedded in our lives and politics.

Our schools have witnessed bullying and threats to both Muslim and Jewish students. Our universities have been particularly involved in activities that have threatened the safety and perception of safety for Jewish students and a questioning of the role of universities in educating our youth.

What I hear and what I see both concerns and frightens me.

I write the above as a concerned Canadian and as a retired teacher who did my best in the classroom to provide an open and safe learning environment for my students. I provided resources for my students to work towards accurate and reliable information to create an understanding of our world. This was also in an academic world without social media rampant with misinformation or media that is no longer verifiable. As a teacher and an adult, I attempted to be a role model for my students to seek answers but to question their sources before drawing conclusions and be open to change and new information.

Is it possible to still do that considering the current environment?

A strategy for retired teachers I would suggest:

1. Ensure we do our best to become informed ourselves and provide accurate and reliable information to those in our families and communities. This can be done by fighting disinformation. Some good websites that provide resources in doing this are:

Government of Canada Fights Online Disinformation

AFP Fact Checking

Media Smarts

2. Be sensitive to our former colleagues and those in our community who may be directly impacted by current events. Asking how they are doing and being a good listener is important.

3. Ensuring our own families and in particular children/grandchildren are obtaining a balanced view of the world from reliable sources.

4. Challenging those who promote hate and misinformation.

5. Ensuring we exemplify the democratic values we believe in.

6. Ensuring as retired teachers and citizens we actively promote and defend those values through seeking the truth and combating hatred when we see it.

Staying silent is not an option.

Ignoring what is going on is not an option.

Using our academic knowledge and understanding and respect for academic and informational integrity is essential.

Doing our part to protect our hard fought for freedoms must continue.

We remain “role models” in society.

We are relevant.

Happy Holidays!