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daily_mail_cannabisI’m getting sick of mainstream media reporting on non-stories tenuously associated to the internet just so they can write a headline that contains the name of the current “in” social media application. These headlines work especially well if crowbarred into a story about another hot topic that can be easily sensationalised. The resulting hot topic mash-up is guaranteed to sell papers and give Daily Mail readers something to get all frothy and indignant about.

Over the last couple of years the frequency and ridiculousness of these stories has escalated. Two years ago it was MySpace Thugs Trashed my House or similar and in the last year or so Facebook has been accused of being responsible for identity fraud, economic ruinmurder and cancer.

I was most pleased last month when eight newspapers and one news television channel were forced to apologise and pay settlement charges to a family after running stories describing how a “Facebook party” had gone “out of control” and that gatecrashers had “trashed” the house in Marbella. It came out that the news “journalists” involved didn’t know or didn’t care that the party wasn’t gatecrashed, only led to very minor damage and in any case was organised on Bebo, not Facebook.

The worst example of a paper using a web application to fabricate a story was last month when the Scottish Sunday Express, as Graham Linehan put it so well, won the race to the bottom by describing the impish Internet behaviour of Dunblane teenagers as “shaming the memory” of those who died in the Dunblane massacre 13 years ago.  They too were forced to apologise.

This year’s main headline-grabbing SM service is Twitter. So I shouldn’t be surprised that last week a story broke about the upcoming report by Sir Jim Rose that will make recommendations for an overhaul of primary school education. The leaked report features many recommendations including the teaching of health and environmental matters and that certain topics from history, notably WW2 and the Victorian period should not be taught at a primary school level. There is also going to be a recommendation that by the time pupils leave primary school they should be familiar with modern sources of information including blogs, wikipedia, podcasts and twitter. Guess what the headlines were?

Pupils to study Twitter and blogs in primary schools shake-up
The Guardian

Pupils ‘should study Twitter’
BBC online

This is a leak from a report recommending the biggest shake up of primary education in 20 years and they focus on Twitter? There of course followed lots of discussion on public phone-ins, panels shows and editors columns about how disgraceful and silly this was. Calm down everyone!

First of all, the report hasn’t been formally published yet. Secondly, when it does get published, the recommendations won’t automatically be Incorporated into the curriculum. Lastly, and crucially, the recommendations, as far as I can tell aren’t saying there should be lessons about Twitter. They are saying there should be an emphasis in teaching kids how to use many sources of information available on the Internet to research a topic as well as gaining fluency in keyboard skills and common desktop applications. Isn’t that a good thing?

The above two articles were at least fairly balanced; unfortunately the same can’t be said of the Daily Mail who are rapidly becoming a parody of themselves. In characteristic fashion, they combined the dumbing down of broken Britain with Twitter and a big dollop of hell-in-a-handbasket editorial slant to produce this work of art.

Exit Winston Churchill, enter Twitter… Yes, it’s the new primary school curriculum

Primary schools could ditch traditional lessons in favour of teaching children how to use social networking sites such as Twitter, it emerged yesterday. 

Under the blueprint for a new primary curriculum pupils would no longer have to learn about the Romans, Vikings, Tudors, Victorians or the Second World War.

They even managed to squeeze in some tub-thumping about sex education and drugs.

Compulsory sex education will start from five and children as young as nine will be taught to make ‘informed decisions’ about taking drugs and drinking alcohol. 

Throw in a couple of outraged history professors, a Tory spokesperson for education and an outraged mother and we’ve got ourselves a story! 

Sigh… 

As always with Daily Mail online articles, the entertaining (and slightly frightening) comments by members of the generally racist public almost eclipsed the silliness of the article itself and I should thank Jane from Solihul for inspiring the title of this post with this nugget of knee-jerkery.

If this isn’t the dumbing down of education in this country I don’t know what is. At this rate eventually the UK will have a generation of complete ignoramuses. So much for Tony Blair’s mantra in 1997 – ‘Education, Education, Education’!

Experienced Daily Mail commenters will realise that Jane from Solihul missed a trick by not claiming that the report is a result of ‘political correctness gone mad’. Or immigrants.

Hey Jane, maybe if you had been educated in primary school on the importance of taking information from a range of sources and using your own critical reasoning to form an opinion, you wouldn’t swallow Daily Mail rhetoric and sick it up disguised as your own thoughts when chatting at the school gates. And maybe your corner of the world would be a better place for it.

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  2. your article was excellent. thanks for posting it.

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