Biased media impair Liberal Studies
Updated: 2013-02-27 06:13
By Ho Hon-Kuen (HK Edition)
Seven years ago, Liberal Studies was introduced as a core subject in the secondary school curriculum. The original aim of the subject, as stated by the Education Bureau, was to develop students' analytical minds and critical thinking skills. Being one of the four compulsory subjects in high school, Liberal Studies shares equal importance with the other three main subjects: Chinese, English and Mathematics. Our community has been responding to the implementation differently, such as "Liberal Studies is a useful subject to enhance students' critical thinking skills, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to assess students through examinations," and "we need to develop a more organized curriculum before we include Liberal Studies as a compulsory subject." Despite criticism of the subject, hardly any revisions have addressed recurring concerns from the general public.
Liberal Studies has attained a high status in school curriculum for two main reasons. The first reason is the interest of government officials. They neglect the complaints and dissatisfactions of the frontline teachers completely. Government officials possess financial control over the education system and the power of policy-making, yet they ignore the voices of teachers and students. The second one is the support from the media. It is hardly surprising that many media outlets supported the implementation of Liberal Studies out of self interest. Under the current Liberal Studies curriculum, students are required to absorb a wide range of information. Reading news from different channels is therefore clearly essential to get a good grade in the subject. It is hoped that students will pay more attention to current issues and develop stronger critical thinking skills through increased amount of reading.
Students nowadays not only read news through one medium, they also gather updated news on TV, the Internet, forums, radio, etc, on a 24-7 basis. The stance of media is highly influential to the students' learning. Its impact on the society has grown exponentially with the advance of technology. And the students' values are heavily dependent on media's attitude toward current events.
Although students are reluctant to read widely, they need to seek more sources of news, often from online news outlets, to gain more in-depth knowledge. However, when we look at the headlines of newspapers every day, most of them are slanted towards the stance of the editors and owners of the newspapers. Media has the power to shape and modify the public opinion in different ways. Nowadays, we can hardly obtain objective information from corporate news outlets.
Last month, Apple Daily reported that one of the Executive Councilors was biased against migrants, quoting him as saying, "I am totally against migrants." In a developed city like Hong Kong, where people seek to ban discrimination, this is an incendiary comment. I believe that a primary student would have the ability to realize the seriousness of saying "totally against migrants". It would seem irrational and illogical for an Executive Councilor to demonstrate such discrimination. However, this bit of "news" was published on a newspaper's front page to excite and entertain people who were already opposed to the government. Although the newspaper's chief editor admitted the report was untrue and apologized, this incident proves the power of the media to shape reality.
Facts are now determined by the persuasiveness of the media. Even if the public has strong ability to distinguish between right and wrong, it is hardly possible for them to realize the truth through the distortion of news articles.
A woman strangled her son before hanging herself at home last month. Many media outlets claimed that there was another woman causing a rift between the suicidal wife and her husband. The media even reported the name of the husband's supposed lover, a female news anchor on the mainland. This information was later found to be a false claim, which resulted in serious mental illness of the innocent anchor.
The negative influence of the media is alarming when we look at the current situation in Hong Kong. With the biased news and hidden agenda of our commercial media, how should we expect our students and teachers to attain the objectives of Liberal Studies? Is the media equipping our students with the ability to tackle everyday problems, or is it creating conflicts and unnecessary grievances among our society?
The author is vice-chairman of Education Convergence.
(HK Edition 02/27/2013 page1)