(Dis)orderly Potential: Ways Forward in “Post-Truth” Social Studies


  • Peter M. Nelson Michigan State University


post-truth, social studies, education, curriculum theory


A growing body of literature (e.g., McIntyre, 2018; Prado, 2018; Thurston, 2018) on “post-truth” examines a marked decline in the value of objective facts and an increase in the value of personal belief, emotion, and subjective experience in the establishment of agreed-upon “truth” in society. Using empirical data from interviews and observations conducted with three social studies teachers, this project considers the disruptive potential of “post-truth” in social studies classrooms. The messy and opaque interplay between truth, emotion, and subjective experience is unpredictable within the project of learning, and this article takes it as a theoretical given that the “post-truth” emphasis on emotion and subjective experience demands a consideration of interiority—the inner-lives of teachers and students. An analysis of the interviews and observations suggests that the three teacher-participants are well-aware of the threat of disorder posed by “post-truth” discourses. In response, teachers resisted “post-truth” moments as a defense against the disorder that often accompanies emotional opinions, as well as the painful acknowledgement of truth’s inescapable discursivity. Additionally, this paper argues that many of the strategies and tactics teachers utilize to defend against “post-truth” moments suppress the emotional and psychical potentialities inherent to learning. This paper concludes by suggesting new ways forward within the “post-truth” quandary of facts, emotion, and interminable education (Felman, 1982).