on expectations and not only

So lately I’ve come across some interesting word combinations, such as ‘reporter forgery’,  ‘journalistic fraud’, ‘fabricated story’, ‘twisting the truth in one’s favor’, ‘a journalistic idol of one’s generation’, ‘produce beautifully narrated fiction’, ‘fraud in reporting’, ‘reporter who faked stories’, ‘top journalist’, ‘faked news scandal’, etc. And I’ve got confused, to say the least.

‘Fake news’ has been around for quite a while, moreover, it became the word of the year in 2017. It’s been used so much that sometimes I get the feeling that fake news has entered the very essence of our existence and that we can’t do without a bit of fakeness in our daily news intake. It’s a kind of a drug that some of us have become addicted to and, just like in the case of any type of addiction, it’s quite difficult to overcome it. And the willpower won’t be of great help if you media illiterate.

There’s something else I’ve noticed regarding this fakeness phenomenon. The more sensationalistic the news is the likelier it is going to be perceived as true. Facts do not seem to be that appealing. People might even find them quite boring. And that’s how a logical explanation is preferred to some absurd conspiracy theory.

There’s something else as well. There is this ongoing tendency of opposing ‘us’ to ‘them’. This opposition would always portray ‘we’ in bright colours and ‘they’ in dark colours. So the moment something happens, something that ‘we’ would find quite shocking, the ones guilty of it would be ‘they’. And this ‘they’ will include everybody who has a quite different point of view from ‘ours’. And if one of ‘us’ is found guilty of something that won’t be true, that will be another lie ‘they’ would be spreading.

Now let’s get to another point. To what extent is journalism independent? To what extent do journalists unbiasedly report facts? To what extent are the readers manipulated into believing what is to be believed? To what extent are the readers ready to discriminate between what is true and what somebody wants them to believe to be true? How much truth is there in news nowadays?

For me, it’s quite difficult to answer these questions. I’m aware that serious research should be done in order to get some answers. But I’ve got the feeling that in many cases journalism has turned into sensationalism. But why? Maybe because they badly want to meet their readers’ expectations. And it doesn’t matter who you are: a leftist, a rightist, or a centrist, or even an anarchist. Let’s be honest, you’d not read ‘their’ newspaper, you’d read the one reflecting your beliefs. And here we are, mere numbers looking forward to getting impressed by the reasonably unbelievable facts.

Even being partially aware of this, it’s still quite shocking to suddenly realize there’s no one, but absolutely no one a reader could totally trust. Everything should be questioned! And everything should have the benifit of doubt! So before rushing into believing what your favourite news magazine claims to be true, take a deep breath and check, corroborate, compare and draw your own conclusions. It’s good to have analytical skills developed in order to avoid falling into the manipulation trap.

There’s something that quite disturbs me nowadays, even when it comes to those trustworthy news sites. Reporting has turned into something which is whatever you want but not reporting. It is something like half fiction, half reporting. But why is it necessary to make it so much fiction-like? Are the reporters again considering the readers’ expectations? Why is it necessary to add so much unnecessary detail to make the story more believable?

These questions came to my mind particularly when the Der Spiegel scandal erupted. The news magazine bravely admitted the wrongdoings of one of its ‘top journalists’ and definitely apologized. The one once called the ‘idol of his generation’ suddenly has turned into the ogre of his generation. One who was presented with prestigious awards suddenly became a fraud. How come?

To be honest, I had no idea who Claas Relotius is, and (maybe to may shame) I’m not following Der Spiegel. Even so, I had the idea that this news magazine is a trustworthy source somehow deeply embedded in my brain. Many would often cite it in their articles, and somehow it is common knowledge that serious journalism is done there. So the disclosure of a journalist’s forgery came as a shock to people who still believe that they can rely on what the press reports.

I really like the thorough analysis Der Spiegel made in the article DER SPIEGEL Reveals Internal Fraud, but there were some passages which made me again question what journalism is, or, to say it otherwise, what it has turned into. The fired journalist said that he did it because of fear to fail. To fail what? Expectations? Whose? The readers’? The newspapers’? His family’s? His own? To fail what if what you are expected to do is to report on something. Just report and nothing else. How or maybe when did reporting turn into a failure?

It was also interesting to read the following: ‘As an editor and section head, your first reaction when receiving stories like this is to be pleased, not suspicious. You are more interested in evaluating the story based on criteria such as craftsmanship, dramaturgy and harmonious linguistic images than on whether it’s actually true’. But why do ‘craftsmanship, dramaturgy and harmonious linguistic images’ have to prevail over truth? What’s the ultimate goal of a news magazine? To impress the reader with ‘craftsmanship, dramaturgy and harmonious linguistic images’ or to report something?

So this gets me back to the question how independent the press is nowadays? I don’t know the exact answer. But it depends above all on its readers. No readers – no work. And we have to be responsible readers, readers who look forward to learning what’s happening in the country/world, and not to getting their expectations met. So the problem is quite complex, and like always there’s no one side of the truth, and definitely there’s not only one being guilty for everything. Although it’s quite convenient to put the blame on someone else and ignore one’s own shortcomings. Let’s change, let’s become more responsible for the choices we make in every field of life.

And I’d like to insert here Rudyard Kipling’s poem We and They, which I indirectly referred to in this post. Prejudice is a blindfold resulting in the impossibility to see the truth.

Father and Mother, and Me,
Sister and Auntie say
All the people like us are We,
And every one else is They.
And They live over the sea,
While We live over the way,
But-would you believe it? – They look upon We
As only a sort of They!

We eat pork and beef
With cow-horn-handled knives.
They who gobble Their rice off a leaf,
Are horrified out of Their lives;
While they who live up a tree,
And feast on grubs and clay,
(Isn’t it scandalous? ) look upon We
As a simply disgusting They!

We shoot birds with a gun.
They stick lions with spears.
Their full-dress is un-.
We dress up to Our ears.
They like Their friends for tea.
We like Our friends to stay;
And, after all that, They look upon We
As an utterly ignorant They!

We eat kitcheny food.
We have doors that latch.
They drink milk or blood,
Under an open thatch.
We have Doctors to fee.
They have Wizards to pay.
And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We
As a quite impossible They!

All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like Us, are We
And every one else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
As only a sort of They!

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On the importance of being HOT or how to determine what an idiot looks like.

The fuss about the surging images of Donald Trump every time one googles the word idiot reflects an alarming tendency to take everything for granted what the all-mighty search engine’s algorithm decides. To take the issue seriously would not only prove that one is digitally illiterate but also that  their higher order thinking sills badly need to be increased.

Unfortunately, there is this tendency to get duped by the sensationalistic content of something false or, let’s put it otherwise, of an opinion. So one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century classroom is to help learners to discriminate between facts and opinions. And a good start would be to question everything, even those sources which you consider trustworthy. Make a habit of double checking the information you have just read. Compare different sources, check their credibility, come up with reasonable judgments.

So let’s assume you want to find out what an ‘idiot’ looks like. Most probably you’ll google the word ‘idiot’ and search for images. Would you take for granted that the most popular picture will display the picture of an idiot?

First of all, the very nature of such a search is questionable. An idiot has so many meanings. For me personally, the first thing that comes to my mind is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot (one of my favorites, actually). So the connotation I would attribute to this word would differ from the one a psychiatrist would think of (though in the era of political correctness they would use ‘profound mental retardation’ instead). Otherwise, the term would be interpreted as an offense. And absolutely all offenses bear the subjectivity of the person using this word. And this what every person should keep in mind before jumping to hasty conclusion that the pictures in Google images show you the face of an idiot.

I would also disagree that the search engine is biased. Come on do you think that there is some one behind selecting among an infinite number of images those with Donald Trump. That would be absurd. A human being can’t compete with a machine here. Yet, we can compete if we’re HOT (higher order thinkers), or put otherwise we have our higher order thinking skills well-developed. Thus, we are able to think critically and produce reasonable judgments.

While reading the pieces of news about the infamous pictures, I’ve discovered that during George W. Bush’ presidency there was a similar scandal. Every time a person would look for what a miserable failure looks like, the picture of the 43rd president would be displayed.

Being a curious person, I wanted to check whether the picture of Donald Trump would appear in google images if I search for ‘idiot’. It is true. Most of the pictures show Donald Trump. Yet, when I looked for ‘miserable failure’, there were more pictures of Barack Obama than of George W. Bush. It is true that the pictures of Trump outnumber the pictures of Obama and Bush all together, but what matters is that they just show what some of the people think about them, their personal SUBJECTIVE opinion. You, as an information consumer, should understand them as such. Definitely, if it happens that you agree with them, this is a totally different story. You’d be expressing your own point of view, giving solid arguments.

Be HOT and don’t judge people 🙂 . We’re all different and that what makes this world interesting. We don’t have to agree with everybody. And definitely we have the right to  have our own opinion. Yet, be always guided by facts. Don’t allow others to think for you. Also avoid jumping to hasty conclusions only by seeing some pictures on the Internet, like for example these displayed below.

 

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Soft vs Hard Skills

Access to information has never been easier. Basically, you are a click away to learn something what really interests you. You can go on and on, and there will still be new things popping up about the subject you are interested in. The point is, nowadays, you can learn everything everywhere, definitely where there is internet access, and if you are motivated enough to gain knowledge.

Getting deeper into the matter, probably will contribute to your professional development and make you extremely skilled in your field. Being skilled would imply that you have developed a set of skills that allow you to perform concrete work-related tasks well. Yet, what kind of skills are they? Are they soft? Are they hard?

Somehow the degree of ‘skill firmness’ plays a crucial role while climbing your career ladder. Which ones prevails most probably would depend on what you prefer to focus most. But would your preference really help you succeed? If, for example, you think that you should develop the ‘tangible’ skills, the ones you could measure and which would show your progress in numbers, are you sure you will be able to offer creative solutions to problems related to your field? What would be the difference between you and the software being able to process an enormous amount of information much faster? Are you sure you will be able to compete with the software, if you have devoted your time exclusively developing your hard skills?

From my experience, it often happens that students who have very good knowledge of the English language, i.e. have their hard skills well-developed, sometimes fail to effectively communicate in that language. The point is that while spending so much time on remembering and understanding, they tend to overlook the importance of developing soft skills. And although they know a lot, they seem to struggle to transfer that knowledge to real-life situations.

After having been asked to fill in some speech bubbles at home with the most suitable conversation structure, I decided to check their homework by testing their ability to use those patterns in small interactions. The activity was rather a failure. Then, when I decided to go on with the lesson and try to find a solution to the problem, one of the students asked me: ‘Aren’t we going to check our homework?’.

I was quite taken aback. First, they did not understand that the previous activity was checking how well they had assimilated what had been assigned to be done at home. Second, it turned out that they all filled in the speech bubbles with the most suitable pattern for the given situation. To my question, ‘What’s the purpose of filling in the speech bubbles correctly if you can’t apply this knowledge to real-life contexts?’ the students could not give me an answer. So the problem was that they had their lower thinking skills well-developed, yet their higher order thinking skills were rather poorly developed.

Another surprising incident happened when I asked students to work in pairs. I wanted to involve all of them, and I often like to mix more proficient students with less proficient students. I do believe that both have a lot to learn through collaboration. The very fact of interacting and trying to solve some problems together already contributes to the development of their soft skills. However, students showed little enthusiasm in engaging in such activities at first. Somehow, in their system there’s this totally erroneously built-up theory that you’re going to be appreciated exclusively by how much you know/learn/memorize.

This belief has been rooted in students’ minds and it is quite challenging (yet not impossible) to make them see the danger of such an approach to learning. And this is a problem which does not concern only learners of a foreign language. Teachers, nowadays, should focus on developing both hard and soft skills. Moreover, at tertiary level soft skills development should be prioritized. Teachers should boost the students’ ability to interact effectively, to work productively in a team, to think creatively, and to transfer knowledge to real-life situations to solve problems.

It is good to keep in mind that we all are just a click away from learning something new. The question is how skilled are we to both effectively and creatively use that knowledge to solve problems?

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One battle lost, the next, please!

To perceive life as a battlefield is wrong. Life is life, and there are ups and downs. There are moments when everything turns black, and then there are also sunny moments full of warmth and satisfaction. Yet, in most cases there are moments of relative stability when you feel OK. Probably, these are the moments which should be appreciated most, whereas becoming aware of their significance in your well-being should be a top priority.

Happiness is to be found in small things. Happiness is to be seen in your routine. Happiness is to be discovered in your daily activities which bring a sense of accomplishment. Happiness (or whatever its name is) is to be felt every time you do something you like.

The thing is I’ve decided to rebel against myself and fight against my own beliefs and ideas. I thought that I had to do this as I had to get away from my comfort zone. Yet, I was not attentive to my feelings and I didn’t trust my gut. I let others to outline the boundaries of my comfort zone. And, oh boy, how wrong I was!

The moment you turn away from your goal and decide to betray your beliefs you should get ready to pay a high price for this. And it has nothing to do with the comfort zone. If the challenge you got stupid enough to take is not the one connected to your dreams, then, my friend, you’re doomed to fail, I’m afraid. I wish I had understood this earlier, before I had to break down both physically and nervously.

Yet, it’s not too late to make a dramatic change. And I WILL make it, no matter what the cost 🙂 I won’t be duped anymore into believing that what others want me to do is actually what I want to do. No more. Thank you. I will just follow my path with ups and downs, and work hard to achieve my dreams.

Hold close to dreams… 😉

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Revelation or the story of a hat 2

I don’t how it is with you but whenever I literally have a looooooooot to do, I don’t feel like doing anything at all. It happens. Yet, not to lose time (and a sort of inspiration) let me recollect the story of the second hat.

So the glorious day when one was lost, and the other was bought. While flying to Barcelona, and still feeling sick, I regretted my foolish decision to spend a week in Barcelona, ALONE! That perspective all of a sudden looked terrifying and far from fun. Yet, I had no choice as my flight back home was in a week.

Half dizzy and half awake I made it to the train station and was kindly helped by a girl to buy the ticket to Barcelona Sants. There was only one train so there was no way I would mix anything up. Yet, being extremely cautious and knowing that there was no one to rely on I took a picture of the train. It was a R2, and I knew that that very train (or another R2) would get me back to the airport in a week.

The place I stayed (booked on Airbnb) was five minutes from the station. Useless to say that it took me half an hour to get there. The owner, an extremely nice lady, couldn’t speak a word in English. So again I would speak in Italian and she would speak in Spanish and we managed to understand one another very well. Actually, I would recommend her place. It is small, but if you’re there to discover the beauty of the city, the place is just perfect. In addition, she has a tradition. She prepares dinner on the first evening. As far as I understood, it’s their famous tortilla. Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat it as I was still feeling sick, but that was very nice of her.

Once there, I took a shower and decided to have a look around. The first thing I did, I bought a hat. Then I got to a supermarket and bought some rice (that would be my meal for the week ahead 🙂 ). The area at first seemed dull, but then I discovered their piece of heaven – la rambla. It is not the central one, the famous one. It was a nice rambla in the area where people were relaxing. Their serenity and calmness relaxed me too. So the perspective stopped being so scary.

When I woke up the next morning, I had the feeling that I would not go anywhere. I felt horrible. Yet, there was something in me pushing me out. Half dead, half alive I followed my host’s recommendation and walked to Plaza España. It was not far away from the place where I lived, it just took me half an hour to get there. And, oh boy, that was something. I got so impressed that I immediately forgot about all my ailments.

I wondered and wandered and I couldn’t have enough of all that spectacular place. At that time I did not know anything about the significance of Montjuic, but I was mesmerized. There was a fountain there too. Beautiful. But again, its majesty was to be discovered the next day. What really struck me at that time was that I found a piece of Venice (actually two) there. I know you’d laugh as I would always find Venice everywhere I go, but this is true story. There are two towers there, two replicas of St Mark’s Campanile. Could I have wished for more? I wandered all that area till the evening, but not late enough to witness the splendour and power of Font Màgica. I did it the following days.

Useless to say that the next day started the same way as the previous. My mantra would be ‘stay at home, don’t go anywhere’. Then somehow I would just rebel against myself and push myself out of my comfort zone. I decided to go and visit the Sagrada Familia.  Once there I discovered that the tickets had been sold out and that I couldn’t enter it. What to do? Where to go? And there it was! My saviour! The red city tour bus! Literally, this is the best option for people like me.

At first, I thought that I would take a one day ticket (if you buy two you get them cheaper). I didn’t get to the first stop and I already knew that I wanted to change my ticket to two days. There was absolutely no problem and the girl upgraded my ticket. That was the best decision ever. Those two days were the days when I was able to discover the beauty of Barcelona and learn something about some of the most significant places.

On my fifth day I went to the old city and walked there till evening. I was literally impressed by the Gothic style of Barcelona’s cathedral. Whenever I had the chance to climb bell towers or anything else I would do it. I was planning how to spend the next 2 days, when all of a sudden it dawned on me! I had one day left.

The thing is I booked my room till Monday. But, just like usual, I made the wrong calculations. 🙂 My flight was after midnight on Sunday. I can’t explain how I ‘logically’ concluded that  I had to stay in Barcelona till Monday. (Literally, I had programmed myself to stay till Monday, so it was a miracle that I woke up the day before my departure.)

On Sunday, I had a last stroll. Definitely I went to Plaza España and Montjuic. At 3 I went home to get ready to leave.

I was extremely proud of myself.

At 7 I was heading to Barcelona Sants to take R2 (the train which was supposed to take me to the airport in half an hour). I checked at home when would the next R2 leave. So I knew that in an hour I should be at the airport.

I had plenty of time. To be on the safe side, I asked one of the patrol guys where I should go to take the train to the airport and I was told to go to Platforms 9/10. So I was impatiently waiting for the train.

So the train arrived. It was a R2. I saw it. I got on. I took my seat and started to make photos. So it was 8 and the air temperature was 39C (probably that was the cause of my sickness, I was there when the temperature got as high as 50C). I knew that normally it should not take more than half an hour to get to the airport. Yet, half an hour passed and there was no sign of the airport. I, however, noticed that the train would often stop. Something which had not happened on my arrival. But I relied on my ‘logical thinking’ (don’t ask how) and assumed that that was a regional train and it’s normal to have so many stops till it would get to the airport.

I started to worry when an hour passed and there was still no sign of the airport. I saw a lady getting on the train. I admired her dress. It was very beautiful. So when the train continued its way I ventured to ask that lady when the train would get me to the airport. She did not understand English, but you should have seen her eyes!!!

NO AEROPORTO! She desperately tried to explain to me where exactly the train was going, but then decided to resume her discourse to show me that I had to get off at the next stop and get back to Barcelona if I wanted to get to the airport. She was extremely convincing, yet I kept saying ‘But it’s R due’. She would only show me the door meaning that I had to get off.

So I got off and incredulously asked if it was far from the airport. You should have seen the people’s eyes when I asked the question! It was 10! My flight was after midnight! Is it necessary to mention my heartbeat?

The train was late. It was supposed to arrive in 15 minutes but half an hour elapsed and there was still no train. Then, after 45 minutes I got on the train. (By the way I asked about taxis, people couldn’t answer where I could get a taxi from in that place.)

In an hour I was at Barcelona Sants. It was 11.30. I ran outside and desperately asked a taxi driver how long it would take him to get me to the airport. He said that if we were lucky we could get there in 25 minutes. He did a miracle, I got to the airport in 15 minutes. I tipped him as he literally saved me.

But if you think that my adventures finished here, you are wrong. It took me 15 minutes to understand where I should go to board my plane. When I finally arrived there, they hadn’t even opened the check-in yet. At that point I was afraid that the flight had been canceled. Now I think that the universe conspired then to do everything to make sure that I first arrived at the airport and then opened the check-in 🙂 . I truly relaxed when I was on board. I didn’t even feel the flight (I usually get nervous). I was so happy and relaxed, I can’t even describe how much.

Is it necessary to say that this time, under such stressful conditions I didn’t lose my hat? It got home safely together me. 🙂

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This is my letter to the world :)

My whole life has been a fight. Sometimes fierce, sometimes desperate, sometimes long, sometimes short, sometimes meaningless, sometimes foolish… The list can go on, but the point is that my fight has shaped who I am today. The wounds made me stronger, the victories made me more confident, the losses made me more stubborn. There were moments when I was on the point to give in. There were moments when I thought it useless. There were moments when I stopped dreaming. There were moments when I stopped to dream. There were so many moments, and there were so few seconds when I had time to think about the fight itself.

Indeed, once fighting breaks out it becomes quite challenging to master my emotions. If control isn’t lost totally, there’s the slight hope that I won’t be drained of all energy. Yet, usually it’s quite the opposite as every single fiber of my being takes active part in the fight. It gets high, it gets low, it goes from one extreme to another. The ride is far from smooth. Yet, somehow I end up taking it, willingly, yet recklessly. I trust my gut, even when it’s wrong. I need this fight. I need it for my growth. I need it to understand something. I need it to discover the novelty of the old forgotten lore. I just need it.

Recently I have been told to stop fighting. The point is that the whole concept of my fight was totally misunderstood. Somehow, people tend to think that I’m fighting somebody. That I have entered a fierce competition where I want to prove that I am better than somebody else.

I do know my strengths and weaknesses. I do know when I can be more competent than somebody else, and I do know when I can be less competent than somebody else. But I never fight against somebody as this fight is totally useless, a lost fight from the very beginning. My fight is within. I fight against ME, MYSELF and I. These are my true nemeses.

So while meddling with my fights, just take a deep breath and relax. Don’t rush to judge where angels fear to tread.

The fight goes on.

Keep fighting to become what you want to be 😉

THIS is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,—
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.

Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

Emily Dickinson

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What’s (un)real?

So here we are, in the middle of nowhere, heading God knows where.

So what does exactly this sentence say? It is difficult to state for sure. The first question mark is who the the heck is meant by ‘we’? Oh, this sweet tendency to include someone just for the sake of feeling this sense of inclusion, of belonging. So I’m not alone, there’s at least another person feeling the same. Another illusion feeding one’s ego and illusory stability. But, ‘we’ is just a fancy. And the brain is just feeding one’s primary needs, it doesn’t give instructions as to what to consider real. If the brain wants to consider it real it’s going to be real no matter what the others tell.

The second question, where’s ‘nowhere’ and if the destination is possible to find, why has one positioned themselves in the middle. Why not at the beginning? Why not at the end? What makes the middle so appealing? Is it about the fact that it’s the closest either to the end or to the beginning? Or is it just another commonplace word combination which feeds one’s ego of wittiness and originality?

Then why ‘heading’? Why is there this constant temptation to move forward? Why is it wrong to turn left or right? Yet, there’s something I particularly like about this verb. The very fact that this example of conversion is mind blowing. Heading the head towards the glorious future. Nonsense, but what implication. For me personally, this is the movement upwards, maybe to the stars. Leaving the trite metaphors apart, a movement meant to trace one’s growth, one’s development, and not stagnation.

And here comes the name of God, and welcome stagnation. What’s the use of mentioning God when it’s not clear what is there to be said, whereas the meaning is lost before even encoding the message? On the one hand, the name of God loses its authority, and there’s no more awe felt whenever the name is mentioned. And then why is God supposed to know something which we think we don’t know?

So here we are where we are and, while trying hard to pose as sage, look silly and incomprehensible to ourselves. Yet, none is to admit the (un)truth about our character. God knows why.

‘I know that I know nothing’.

 

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