Jelmer Evers
Mar 3, 2017 · 4 min read

Psychological operations (PSYOPS) are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.(Wikipedia)

We’ve been flooded by fake news and stories about fake news the last year with devastating consequences. Public education plays a big role to counter this trend in the long run. But that means that we have to be especially careful about how we deal with information about education ourselves, as the continuing fake news about the Finish curriculum and the abolishing of school subjects shows.

Fake news is a huge problem. The infrastructure that has been built to leverage fake news, to weaponise it, is especially disconcerting. There seem to be multiple well funded and coordinated attacks on how we think and act. It is not only Russia that is actively conducting psychological operations — or PsyOps - in Europe and the United States, but it is also the extreme-right that has created a vast alternate algorithmic and automated propaganda machine to fuel perpetual rage.

To be sure, the West and certainly the US, has been suffering from what Francis Fukyama has described as political decay for a longer time. Our trust in each other and in our institutions is increasingly frayed. After an initial optimistic start of the post-Cold War era, uncertainty is the new norm. Neoliberal globalisation has brought us winners and losers, where the latter were not heard of for a long time. Automation is eating away at our job security. And on a deeper level this is all eating away at our identities and a yearning for easy, misguided solutions. Giving rise to a near-future that might be dominated by illiberal democracies and authoritarianism. This new, automated, form of propaganda is strengthening that trend. I’m not sure yet how we as liberal democracies can tackle this concerted attack on our freedom, but fact-checking alone won’t do it.

Source: The Guardian

As this article on Foreign Policy has shown the Finns, as with many other things, seem to have found a way to counter fake news and make it work. One of the reasons for their resistance to disinformation is a strong public education.

Finnish officials believe their country’s strong public education system, long history of balancing Russia, and a comprehensive government strategy allow it to deflect coordinated propaganda and disinformation.

A strong public education system. Therefore it was with great chagrin that I saw -one of those educational myths that won’t seem to die- pop-up again in the Dutch Twittersphere: “Finland will get rid of its traditional school system in 2020!” reads a recent article. Actually, no its not. And that’s a good thing. What the Finns are doing is an incremental, careful curriculum reform involving all major stakeholders, including teachers. They’re not getting rid of school subjects, but there will be more integration of subjects to address themes (climate change, European Union, fake news(!) etc.) from a multidisciplinary perspective with a minimum of “one such study-period per school year for all students”. Crucially, how that’s implemented in schools won’t be subscribed.

This whole -Finland is scrapping traditional school subjects!- meme seems to have started with this article on Brightside, it was widely shared through social media echo chambers and then picked up by the mainstream media. Which again strengthened the whole idea in peoples minds that Finland was starting on an education revolution. A classic example of how fake news can spread quickly and now it just won’t seem to die.

It is with great irony that all those posts that celebrate critical thinking in education seem to display the least of it. This might seem harmless, but it’s not. It’s fake news. Period. Fake news on bogus curriculum reforms messes with how we educate our children. Our education systems need to get better and that’s a great responsibility. A responsibility on which the future of our liberal democratic societies probably depends.

Jelmer Evers

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Teacher| Global #Teacherprize 15&16 nominee| Author of #flipthesystem #HetAlternatief| Learning, teaching, designing @UniCUtrecht @eduint