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Media literacy in school is increasing

Many teachers distrust the established media, a recent study finds. This worries these media, but it is also good news: the well-founded media scepticism in society is increasing and it is being conveyed to the next generation. This may then be better equipped to deal with the fake news campaigns of the major media.

“Fake news comes mainly from the Internet and is disseminated by politically right-wing or confused individuals or groups in blogs, alternative media and forums. The major mainstream media are making great efforts to educate themselves about this fake news and to inform citizens critically and independently about the course of the world.” This is the mantra of the major media on the complex of fake news.

The fake news of the big media

But this is itself fake news – because many major media outlets, for their part, are among the biggest producers of fake news: large-scale media campaigns such as those on Syria, demonizing the Corona protest, maintaining the liberal economic order, privatizing pensions, or, most recently, Alexei Navalny and Nordstream2 cannot be staged in a similarly massive way by blogs and forums. In order to establish the political harmony that often prevails in the major German media on many key issues, a network of large media and major news agencies as well as a suitably conditioned staff are needed. Links to fake news campaigns by major German media follow below.

A representative study should now examine the situation of media literacy among teachers, as reported by the “taz”. This study and the executive “Allensbach Institute” are also to be met with due scepticism. But even if one sees the study and its results with reservation, the reactions to it are also interesting. The study, which can be found under this link, showed that according to “taz”:

“An astonishingly large proportion of teachers are hostile or hostile to the media – or implicitly assume that there is no freedom of the press in Germany.”

In the article, the “taz” uses a strategy that is widespread in the German press landscape, with which the media want to shield themselves from criticism: it refers to media criticism as “right”. This is (at least in part) an absurd statement: the critique of media concentration and the resulting monotony and embezzlement of uncomfortable aspects is also a left-wing tradition. The founders of the “taz” should know this particularly well, because the newspaper was created for these reasons as well. This was a long time ago and now the “taz” itself is taking part in the shielding of media corporations against criticism. This statement is not to deny, of course, that even among teachers the influence of the right is partly successful – that is worrying, but media scepticism alone is not yet a symptom of this.

Simple equation: “evil alternative media” and “serious large media”

The results of the study are astonishing, provided that the standards in the study have been met. On the one hand, these results are worrying for the determining makers in the German press landscape. On the other hand, they can at least partly hope that in the future the students will be given more media literacy than the simple and dominant equation of the “evil alternative media” and the “serious big media”.

The study was commissioned by the Donors' Association of the Press. For this purpose, the “Allensbach Institute” surveyed 500 German and social studies teachers in lower secondary education, in a “representative sample”. While according to “taz” almost all respondents (95 percent) rated news literacy as at least “important”, only 60 percent were sure that it is the task of the media to “critically observe and control the powerful”. Forty percent said that media were there to “mobilize the population for certain concerns”. 10 percent therefore believed that the media should “steer the formation of opinion in the sense of the government”. And 6 percent would think that media should “hold back news if there is a risk that it will negatively affect public opinion,” according to the “taz”. The statements quoted were offered pre-formulated in the survey, so multiple nominations were possible. Incidentally, the survey was carried out before the proclamation of the “pandemic” – the extremely frivolous media behaviour towards Corona is likely to have significantly increased the distrust of many teachers towards many major media in the meantime.

The stronger the criticism, the weaker the media literacy?

Especially under the impression of the current campaigns on Corona and the case of Navalny, the following statement is interesting: namely, that “many messages that are actually important are hidden in the normal media and can only be found in social networks, forums or blogs”. 19 percent of respondents agreed. Many media people certainly find this worrying – but one might also find it worrying that about 80 percent of the respondents see it differently. Teachers who deny this statement do not thereby prove greater media literacy – on the contrary. A bizarre slogan, however, which is spread by many major media outlets, is that the greater the criticism, the lower the media competence: by expressing media criticism, one is practically already in the hands of the “right-wing rat-catchers”. The “taz” also uses the investigation, as I said, for a played astonishment at the aversion to dubious media and for the renewed observation that media criticism is above all for rights:

“These are positions that must be worrying because they mean translated: these respondents find that there is no functioning free press in this country. They reveal an understanding of the media as part of the government, the state, the authorities, as it has been actively disseminated and consolidated by the right for years.”

According to the press release, the study is “a worrying finding” for Dietmar Wolff, chief executive of the publishers' association BDZV. When asked by the “taz” Wolff, Wolff said that the results of the study suggested that “the topic of news literacy should occupy a much larger space in the classroom than before”. We must, of course, agree with that. It can be assumed, however, that the head of the association does not mean the critical and independent information of the citizens, but the shielding of the “classical” media from criticism. Wolff also makes a “threat”: he calls for regular “teacher training”.