EARLY on, as the social media heated up and even the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) joined the fray, I have been saying that identifying "fake news" sites is not the way to go. Moreso, I have been telling young journalists and journalist-wannabes that social media is not the enemy. In fact, social media is the market-slash-audience-slash-reader-slash-critic-slash-advertiser right on your fingertips. You just have to know how to work with them.
The CBCP, however, took on the popular track and came out with a list of what they believe are fake news sources. I rolled my eyes in disbelief. A religion that looks at pre-marital fornication as a sin cannot even convince many of its flock not to fornicate without the blessings of a marriage, how does it expect to be believed in identifying sites that their flock shouldn't believe in?
One fact that every communicator -- whether blogger, journalist, social media kibitzer, neighborhood gossip-monger, or bishop -- should remember: People will believe what they want to believe. The most that you can do is get their attention and through their trust in your, they will believe. But we know too well that in the age of social media, the first thing that was thrown out the window was trust.
Even the politicians you thought were the epitome of good -- aka Edsa Revolution leaders -- have been exposed as the greedy oligarchs that they are. True, you can make people believe your even when you are lying and pretending, but as the social media shows us, whatever lies there is will soon be unearthed. It may take time, but they will.
At the bottom of all these, including the gullibility of the Filipino masses, is education. The problem is in there, when the child first picks up a textbook that is full of factual errors and reads on that same textbook that Mindanao is inhabited by Muslims who recruit young people to become rebels, that is where the gullibility grows from. So, where do we go from here?
We can say it's almost impossible because all these have been embedded in our people through the education system for generations now? My answer, my generation will not be here forever, your generation will not be here forever, not even the millennials and the Generation Z. All of us will die. That does not mean we will not do anything now.
The problem with the education system has already been recognized -- the corruption-filled textbook printing that has brought to life hastily done and error-filled textbooks, the removal of good manners and right conduct in primary school curriculum, the "no child left behind" policy that was interpreted to mean that not one single child will be given a failing grade or else the teacher suffers a cut on her allowance or take home pay or benefits and thus children who can barely read graduate high school unchecked, that the mother tongue-based multilingual education means that both teachers and very young Davao conyo-speaking students all learn classic Cebuano and thus have a classroom where not just the child but also the teacher barely understand what the darn textbook are talking about.
All these breed generations upon generations of people who lack critical thinking and we cannot blame the children and the teachers. The teachers went through these as well as they were once children. As children, we all believe that textbooks are THE authority in knowledge. So we believed all that it told us. Now, remove critical thinking in the process -- where active discussion is not encouraged and children are passed even if they do not know how to read and thus cannot read on their own, we end up with gullible population.
Bottomline? If you want to put an end to fake news, you teach discernment and critical thinking right from the K and every year until 12 of K-12. In the olden days, children were taught the basics of life skills like they were apprentices, the elders deciding when they are old enough to learn a new life skill. We thought we were better than them, and so we introduced curriculum after curriculum that change this and that way whenever our American idols change theirs. And now we have something that is so detached from who we are, we molded our children to just believe so that they will get the grades that will earn them medals and ribbons. We have molded them to become nothing but echoes and images of our own expectations, we have lost their true spirits that in the beginning were created in the image and likeness of God. I rant.