When I was young, there was one album in the “Asterix & Obelix” series with that name of ‘the big divide’. It was a satirical comment on the sharp division in French society of that day and age – which might actually with hindsight seem just a little crack in the floor compared to what we see today in many countries.
The big divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’ in national, nationalist, populist politics is seen and lamented by many but addressed by very few. From the perspective of people with decreasing trust in institutions and increasing faith in (digital) hearsay, alternative facts and post-factual truths, universities and academic clearly belong in the enemy camp. With the exception of those academics who feel that their expertise in, e.g. legal philosophy gives them authority in physical geography, urban economy, remote sensing and other disciplines underlying the climate change studies.
Having had that off my chest, my question still remains: “How can universities and academics engage in meaningful ways with people who seem to have lost faith in rationality and an evidence-based approach?” When higher levels of education across the population demonstrably do not lead to increased belief in rationality and an evidence-based approach, how can we maintain the illusion that more education is the solution?
We need to dig deeper – and actually listen more carefully to people who seem to have lost faith in rationality (except when they need surgery).