By Dr. Michael M. Alba, Far Eastern University president
This year marks an important milestone in Philippine history. It is the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, which is described as one of the darkest chapters in our history as a nation. Instead of observing this occasion with anger and the promise of “never again,” social media was rife with misinformation and disinformation.
What is the difference between the two? Both deal with false, misleading, or out-of-context information. The difference is the intent. Misinformation does not have any intention to deceive, while disinformation misleads people on purpose. Whether there is ill intent or not, both are growing societal problems that need to be swiftly addressed.
It is because of the prevalence of misinformation and disinformation that Philippine history textbooks play an even more important role in educating students. When we teach them fact-based information, they can better distinguish right from wrong and make better decisions. Yet it was alarming to find historical fallacies and inaccuracies in selected Grade 5 and 6 Araling Panlipunan textbooks, and remain evident up to date.
Fallacies and inaccuracies
According to the Far Eastern University’s Public Policy Center, our evidence-based research arm, these fallacies and inaccuracies discovered range from the colonization period of the Spaniards until contemporary history, including Martial Law.
What makes this even more worrisome is that textbooks are regarded as an authoritative source of information. The fact that they are “authorless” doubles down on their reputation as free of perspective, interpretation, and bias. Sadly, different historical interpretations and narratives were read in textbooks, and these include civics, indigenous people and culture, geographic misconceptions, and denialism.
The power of truth
It is important to have textbooks with factual and accurate information because elementary students and teachers rely heavily on these to have an in-depth understanding of our history. As the gatekeepers of truth, it is our responsibility as educators to use our influence to paint an accurate picture of the past.
This is done through fair and objective teaching. By objective, we mean presenting the different sides and stories of a historical event. It is always evidence-based and validated. Facts shall not be ignored as they play an integral role in how we view our roots, ideologies, nationality, and how we treat our people.
This is especially crucial now as the younger generation is more interested in reading and consuming content on social media. Who can blame them when this is more accessible and engaging? This, however, makes them more vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation as it is much easier to spread fake news online.
What ultimately matters is the truth and molding our students into critical thinkers and fact-checkers who promote integrity, true patriotism, and justice. We shall continue to uphold the truth and not remain silent, since this implies that we continue to allow wrongdoings that already happened in the past to occur again, especially today.
Making truth more accessible
With the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation in textbooks and online, we established an online portal where students, teachers, and the public can access verified and truthful historical information.
The portal combines the best of both worlds: the accessibility of digital content and the rigorous review process of accurate textbooks. This is an important initiative since marginalized and vulnerable sectors don’t have the same opportunity, experience, and exposure to authentic information. Textbooks should not be taken for granted as we still continue traditional learning.
The academe plays a critical role in fighting disinformation and misinformation. We call on educational institutions to be more proactive in ensuring that the information being passed on to the youth is accurate and without bias, especially when it comes to historical events. Everyone is also encouraged to fact-check and be critical about the information being shared, whether online or otherwise.
We all share one goal, which is to seek and fight for the truth towards our country’s democracy. For us to push forward, it is imperative for us to always honor and remember the past. May Filipinos always keep in mind that history is bound to repeat itself when we do not look back at our past.
The online interactive portal can be accessed through this link. For the full discussion and a more in-depth explanation, the ‘#HearLiesTheTruth History Textbook Review: Online Interactive Publication’ forum is available on the FPPC official Facebook page. You may also visit FEU’s official Facebook page and website at www.feu.edu.ph for the university’s other initiatives.