The British government is planning a new initiative which will aim to help schoolchildren distinguish real information from ‘fake news’ — in an eyebrow-raising move which could be described as a little bit Orwellian.
British Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds unveiled the new plan, warning that teachers need to better prepare students for the risks posed by “fake news” online, the Independent reported.
From 2020, British kids in both primary and secondary schools will learn about “confirmation bias” and “online risks” as part of a compulsory section of the curriculum. As part of the plan, teachers will help children identify techniques used for “persuasion” and be told “when to seek support.” They will also learn about the reasons why someone might wish to “bend the truth” in the first place.
A concerned Hinds warned that the internet makes it easier for both state actors and individuals to “spread falsehoods.” One area in particular which the government is looking at is “misleading content” regarding vaccinations. Without “firm action,” the proliferation of allegedly misleading information online will “get a lot worse,” he said.
Hinds recalled that propagandists have sought to “manipulate the truth” since “ancient times.” Indeed, this is something any British government official should be well aware of, since it’s well-known that the British mainstream media — including the BBC and British newspapers — have historically been infiltrated by intelligence agents from MI5 and MI6. One could probably safely assume that such inconvenient information will be left off the agenda, however, with the British program more likely to focus on the evils of propaganda emanating from Britain’s geopolitical adversaries.
Aside from the obvious question of whether governments are best placed to create a curriculum on fake vs. real news, there’s also the added dilemma of whether teachers should be responsible for imparting wisdom on media manipulation to children, when so much of the task of deciphering the news these days comes down to pure opinion. What one teacher might regard as real, another might view as fake.
Presumably, for example, Hinds would regard an institution like the BBC as a “trusted” source — and yet many others of a different political persuasion would likely disagree. The initiative raises the question of who exactly should be allowed to set the standards of ‘truth’ and ‘trusted’ when it comes to media. This is usually only the role of government in dystopian novels.
t’s not the first time Western governments or government-linked initiatives have sought to ‘educate’ the public about fake news through arguably sketchy means. The CIA-linked NewsGuard app has managed to get itself automatically installed on Microsoft’s Edge mobile browser, warning users away from “unreliable” whistleblowing and alternative news sites and directing them firmly toward mainstream sources that don’t often question establishment narratives.
A cynic might suggest such that the British government’s latest plan amounts to a form of state indoctrination of children to support the ‘correct’ narratives to serve its agenda from an early age.