Education Breeds the Right Information
Education |Rahul Puri
Rahul Puri | Head of Academics | India’s finest film

It is everywhere in this day and age. Whether we like it or not, social media and the digital age means that we are bombarded by more information and news than any generation in history. At times the overload is so much that it is hard to focus on what is important much less try to figure out what indeed is the actual truth with so many conflicting stories circulating on a variety of platforms, all suggesting they have it ‘right’ and more importantly – ‘first’.

We can blame all this on technology but the real culprits here are us. Using a wonderful and historic technology like the internet for such shameless purposes of self-propagating messages to fulfil sometimes unscrupulous and many times greed based interests is extremely low but it is the reality of the world we live in so better that we learn how to distinguish the real from the fake and the lies and falsehoods from actual facts. ‘Fake news’ is a way of life today with people ditching serious, well researched journalism and information that takes time to collate and verify with WhatsApp forwards that are instant and usually sensationalist and almost always, utter nonsense.

So for the younger generation, which has not grown up relying on newspapers and Television coverage (which by the way is also quickly becoming corrupted by this ‘breaking news’ environment in a bid to stay relevant), their news sources are what they read on their smart phones through their social media platforms of choice or through their messaging apps that send and receive unverified information faster than the speed of thought. How then can education be positioned to help this generation distinguish the false narratives from the real truths? How do educators help young people read the information they are presented and ensure that they can spot the biases, slants and untruths strategically presented within to shift perceptions and alter our understanding of incidents and happenings to suit a few people with vested interests?

Critical reasoning is something that must become compulsory in all schools so that students growing up can logically and rationally reason out things and thereby develop a sense of quickly understanding whether something that has been said, is likely true or not. This is a vital skill which is lacking in a majority of school curriculums which try to further the cause of memory-based knowledge of ‘facts’, which are destined to fade over time rather than giving young people the skill to quickly reason out a problem given to them and use simple techniques to judge the best course of action. Standard school curriculum should quickly move away from asking objective questions which rely on recall and head their assessments to subjective questions which call for opinion based on logical reasoning and choices which can then be reviewed and questioned by teachers. This gives young people the basic platform to approach the barrage of information which is flowing at them and rationalize what looks right and wrong quickly through simple logical questioning.

Students must also be compelled to learn about the media. This seems strange because there are a number of courses like drama and film that are in some curriculum and syllabus around the world but again, these are craft based teachings and not really teachings that focus on criticism of the media platform itself. It’s fine to learn to critique a piece of content, but what about critiquing the platform that distributes that particular content. A solid understanding of the media and the way it works, both as a platform as well as a business will give young people a solid education into what to be vary of and how to question the things that the media is circulating in the name of ‘fact’. This is extremely vital today with the expansion of digital media into our homes and personal spaces.

What sources of information are credible? How to look for inconsistencies within text? How to spot bias in words, language, mannerisms, images, etc.? All these can be taught to young people in a means that gets them to question. The key here, which many of you have probably noticed, is for that teaching itself not to be biased or prejudiced in the first place or else students will see things only from the perspective lens of their faculty. However, once taught, these are skills that students can use to apply to their own judgements as well. And I have seen many a student over-turn their own opinion, which they believed well informed, after researching into a multitude of sources and removing their prism of bias that they viewed an incident through.

It is critical therefore to first start this exercise by students themselves understanding that they can only open themselves up to searching for real information in this information overloaded age, once they are clear about what their own biases are. Everyone has them. You reading this, me writing it. We are all a function of our experiences and the things we have seen, read and heard around us. All rational and critical thinking begins when we question these in a way to remove the blinkers of myopia that constrains us. Then perhaps we can begin to see what is correct information and this is something only education and the removal of ignorance can do. Thus it is vital for schools and colleges to begin to build into their learning pedagogy an ability for students to shape their own individuality not just in creativity but first in the lens that they view the world around them in. This then makes all education and learning unique and valuable to every single student listening.

About the Author:

Rahul Puri is the Head of Academics of India’s finest film, communication and creative education institute, Whistling Woods International & Managing Director of India’s leading entertainment company, Mukta Arts Ltd. A business graduate from Kings College London, he started his career as an investment banker at UBS Warburg. Rahul Puri moved to Mumbai in 2002 and worked in the sector of Corporate Finance & Strategy before he joined Mukta Arts Ltd. to produce and distribute Indian films. Rahul contributes to all aspects of the company now including production, distribution, financing, marketing, and exhibition. He was keenly involved in the set-up of Whistling Woods International and now is setting up and building out a chain of Cinemas under the brand name of Mukta A2 Cinemas.

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