The BBC reports that “Schools should teach young people about how to identify “fake news”, says the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s education director.” I suppose that’s a good idea but I would suggest that someone should be teaching older people too.
Which part of british society most believed that Britain had lost control of its borders in the EU referendum last year? Or, in the same campaign, fell for the fake news that we would spend an additional £350 million every week if we left the EU, or that migrants cost the UK economy when in fact they were of a great net benefit? Oh yes. Older people.
With age comes wisdom, say some people, although I would suggest that this is a hideous inaccuracy. Wisdom is, they say, “knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life”, like reading the Sun and Mail and believing every word, presumably, or listening to Nigel Farage and accepting his warped and poisonous view of the world. The young people I know, who have grown up in a political environment that has pushed their expectations and ambitions to the bottom of the pile, have learned about the way society has, or rather hasn’t, worked for them. Just because you are old doesn’t mean you have the monopoly on knowledge and wisdom.
Our young people have grown up much quicker than previous generations because we live in a world where change is happening quicker than ever. The rapid development of technology – it is pointless referring to it as “new technology” because most technology gets old very quickly – has dramatically altered the way we live and learn. Wisdom is accumulated in lots of different ways these days, not simply through the act of growing old.
Young people are exposed to fake news in different way from previous generations. For instance, young people no longer buy newspapers, many of which are purveyors of fake news to the old. The majority of the tabloid market is specifically aimed at more “mature” readers, mature in years not life, and a great deal of it deals in “fake news”, or in the case of certain newspapers what us writers refer to as outright lies.
There was nothing wise about the old damaging the life chances of the young by tearing us away from the EU. In fact, the young saw through the fake news but were narrowly outvoted. If we are going to warn young people about fake news, perhaps we could have evening classes for the old?