Editorial: Invest in innovation, not confrontation

It might have less social media cachet for young and restless demographics, but it’s what Canada needs far more of today than traffic-stopping public protest: A new generation of citizens with the training, skills and commitment to develop innovative answers to 21st century economic and environmental challenges.

We have a surplus of citizens assigning blame and shaming; we have a deficit of citizens committed to finding collaborative solutions.

At the core of developing the skills and expertise needed to find solutions rather than multiply confrontations is education. For example, cultivating scientific literacy and basic math skills has never been as fundamental to the success of the country’s economy and social cohesion as it is today.

The main challenge in that cultivation, however, is social media’s acceleration and proliferation of information dissemination.

Separating it from misinformation is now perhaps the greatest challenge facing social, economic and educational institutions in Canada and around the world. A professor in the University of Alberta’s Health Law Institute quoted in a recently released Canada Foundation for Innovation report focused on youth and science opined that “misinformation is killing people.”

“It is,” said Timothy Caulfield, “having an incredibly adverse impact on public discourse and our democracy.”

But social media is the information source of choice for Canada’s upcoming generation of workers, scientists and politicians.

Unless its members are armed with critical thinking skills through the country’s public education system from an early age and are taught how to think and not what to think, and unless that system creates the environment in which innovation, expertise and workplace skills can be developed so that information and productive collaboration prevail over misinformation and partisan divisiveness, the country will continue to fall further behind in the innovation economy.

Canada will then be united in collaboration on one ignominious front: Decline and fall.