Sociology and media studies classes are required in the Irish education system to combat fake news and the far-right, university lecturers suggest.
Secondary schools have recently incorporated philosophy and digital media literacy subjects into their curriculum to adapt to the current “fake news era” but some people believe that fact-checking and critical thinking need to be taught to all children.
Dr Jane Suiter, director of the Institute for Future Media and Journalism at DCU told The Irish Times that she would like to see philosophy introduced at primary and secondary level so it becomes second nature to think critically.
“When consuming media, they should ask themselves if they trust this source. Going back a step, however, we need to teach people to think more critically,” Suiter said.
Steven Knowlton, professor of journalism at DCU believes that regulation of social media is also necessary to remove fake news but agrees that critical thinking could work if it’s definition is clarified.
“Unless it means I look at this story and ask: does it have all the earmarks of being bogus or credible? If that’s critical thinking, then yeah I’m in favour of it. If you look at it and say that does not conform with my world-view, then that’s not.”
Critical thinking is already taught to communications and journalism students in DCU but some of these students are sceptical towards the possibility of fake news classes being incorporated into the college curriculum.
“I wouldn’t say they’re necessary because so many people are sceptical of fake news at the moment that it won’t survive. Plus, the only classes that are needed are those on fact-checking to make sure the article is correct before it’s even published anywhere,” final year journalism student Emily Crowley said.
Fellow journalism student, Enda Coll, believes that parents themselves need to teach their children to think critically instead of being taught in school.
“The next thing we’ll be having classes on common sense. I was told something growing up: “don’t believe everything you read”, I don’t understand why people can’t just teach their children that and abide by it themselves,” Enda said.