There has been much in the news about false news and how we are living in a post-truth society. However, this is nothing new, as we have seen these ideas throughout history, for example with the term “Yellow Journalism” in the late 19th century in the USA. As Randolph Hearst supposedly responded, “You furnish the picture and I’ll furnish the war.”, when referring to the imminent Spanish – American war of 1898.
News stories, propaganda, marketing and publicity, essentially all sources need to be questioned in the same way. Which is why history equips students to think critically and ask questions about everything that is presented to them.
With all source papers students should follow four steps to critically analyse and evaluate any source or piece of evidence:
- Never trust any piece of evidence. Always ask if it telling you lies?
Ask the following W questions:
Who (wrote it)? When (was it written / published)? Whom (was it written for)? Where (was it written)? Why (was it written)
2. Find other sources and evidence to compare the evidence.
3. Only then should you compare the evidence with your contextual / background knowledge, which could be flawed and subjective.
4. Finally, reach a conclusion where you synthesis, evaluate and modify the ideas of the source.
Obviously, as historians we are trying to follow an empirical and scientific methodology when analysing and evaluating any sources, to try and give a more objective view of the past and try and find the truth. However, to paraphrase E.H. Carr in “What is History?” (1961), we ultimately will be subjective in the facts or evidence that we select.
However, the four steps above will help students equip themselves better for their exams, but more importantly to enter the world as critical questioning thinkers, who can spot false news, propaganda, publicity and especially false marketing in all its forms. And very importantly stop our world from becoming an Orwellian dystopian nightmare where we live in a land of doublespeak and “The Ministry of Truth is The Ministry of Lies”.
Finally, I and the team from Phoenix College Malaga would like to wish all our students, who have been studying with us in years 11, 12 and 13, all the best in their forthcoming exams.
Phoenix College Malaga will be opening it’s doors in September 2018, in the centre of Malaga, providing a quality education for students in year 12 (selectivad), the following year we will be teaching years 12 and 13 (selectivad). As well as the International A levels, we will be offering the Spanish PCE subjects, which will enable students to have the choice in going to British, Spanish and European universities.
Phoenix College Malaga