Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] What about TV and Computer Games?

From: Richard Berlin <>
Date: Sat Mar 1 18:56:01 2003

> I can see this is an important topic for you, Joe. I'm just pondering
> it out, myself. TV, with its constant shifting imagery and non-stop
> noise, drives me nuts...HOWEVER, if it weren't in the basement, it
> would be on all the time, because I'd turn it on and leave it on and
> sit and watch it, actually. Maybe that's why I doubt the value of it:
> because it's nothing but a detriment in my own life. If I argue and
> disagree, that will be the reason. But teachable. Someone convince me.

Disclaimer: my child is not yet he faces a
different set of developmental issues then yours do.

I think he probably watches about four hours of TV a
day, and plays with the computer whenever we have the
patience to sit with him. The first time he touched
a computer he ripped three keys off within seconds.
Now he can actually use a mouse to point where he intends
and click on an object. I have no idea how he learned
this skill, just as I don't know how he learned to count.
One day a new skill just seems to show up out of nowhere.
(This is why, despite my questioning, I am absolutely
convinced that a Sudbury school is the only place for
him. His natural learning process is incredible. We
are honored when he invites us to "join in," as he
puts it. But he needs to be in control of the process and
most definitely doesn't need "experts" screwing with it.)

Some of the things that have come out of nowhere suggest a
*significant* benefit from his media experiences. For
example, watching Caillou, his favorite show, approximates
one of the benefits of age-mixing that he doesn't get
at daycare or home: he sees a kid who is developmentally
ahead of him, and who nevertheless has struggles and
uses his resources to overcome them. And unlike real
life, he gets a narrator who can explain the motivations
of the people he is seeing, e.g. "Caillou was very angry
because..." or "He loved it when the little dog obeyed
him" or "Caillou wished his mommy would put down the phone
and pay attention to him."

On the other hand, he doesn't get to choose the channel yet.
So the stuff he's absorbing or getting attached to is all "safe."
It's not violent, it's commercial free, and it's a mixture
of developmentally behind him, ahead of him, and on target.
At some point we will have to teach him about the ways the
media can be used to manipulate him, reassure ourselves that
he knows the difference between real life and TV, and trust
him to choose for himself. But that time is a ways off.

We get a *lot* of leverage out of TV, which we are able
to do only because know what he's watching. E.g. today when he
saw a piece of construction equipment and asked how it worked,
I could point to the augur on the end and say "the twisty part
makes holes in the ground, just like Noggindrill." He got it
immediately. And a good thing, too, because I had no idea how
I was going to explain it to him otherwise. (It wasn't drilling
at the time.)

Also today we had the exchange

        "Hey, Dada--that trolley is just like the one Mr. Rogers has!"

      "Is it really? I thought Trolley-Trolley was a different color.
         Isn't he red and yellow?"

        "You're right, it is a different color...and Trolley is smaller."

His world is *greatly* expanded beyond the experiences he can
have for himself; and as already mentioned, some of these are
experiences he could never have *safely* in the real world. I
think this is probably true regardless of age. Books expand his
world also, of course, but in a different way. Being read to is
a social occasion, for one thing, and books are much further
removed from real life than the moving, talking pictures are.

Finally, TV shows and videos are a slice of life that can be
observed over and over again until all of the nuances have been
caught. I don't think you could possibly overestimate the value
of being able to observe your own culture under a microscope that
way. I think he probably made us show him "Wallace and Gromit, A
Grand Day Out" about 200 times. Ditto with "Monsters, Inc."
And then of course there was the requirement that we act out
key scenes with him. I'm so glad we're done with "23-19!"
But I think he actually used that play to grapple with some
things that were frightening or beyond comprehension to him,
and he let go of the incessant replays only after the lesson
had been mastered.

I'm sorry, I can't give you any examples that are pertinent to
a child your age. But I hope that by illustrating some of the
learning that I've observed, it will begin to suggest avenues
for your own observation. I'll be curious to hear about what
you discover.


-- Rich
Received on Sat Mar 01 2003 - 18:55:58 EST

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