Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] variations on the model in practice

From: Todd Pratum <>
Date: Thu Apr 7 01:43:00 2005
Dear Scott,
  I'd appreciate a source for this-- "Jerry Mander's book has been
roundly criticized even by developmental psychologists as
politically inspired and drawing unwarrented conclusions for
a couple correlations picked out of a hat while other
correlations are dismissed."

It will be a thrill for me to follow it up as I have read everything I have been able to find on Mander and always want to know more.  (BTW what did you think of the book?). Thank you.  P.S. I agree with the group viewing experience, even better is light projected on a wall and not into your eyes, i.e. film, a more collective and less invasive experience on the brain (or so they say). 

Scott David Gray wrote:
I'd remind people that watching TV with a group is a
different activity than watching it on one's own. That it
becomes part of the conversation, and is watched very
critically. I don't want to suggest that there is anything
wrong with someone choosing to watch TV on her/his own, but
it is interesting to note at school that people virtually
*always* choose to watch TV in groups and keep an active
discussion of what they watch.

Oh, and I'd also strongly reccomend the book "Killing 
Monsters" by Gerard Jones.

If I really believed that children under the age of 9 could
not think critically, there is no way that I could
*possibly* in good conscience work in a school where the
children from 4 on up are wholly responsible for their own
education. As it happens, I don't believe the funny numbers
that developmental psychologists from Piaget on have gotten
-- researchers like Carole Gilligan, and Bower (1982), and
general common sense have blown the lid off of sloppy
science that presumes absense of a skill simply because a
specific verbal *test* of that skill doesn't see it.

It's also worth noting that Jerry Mander's book has been
roundly criticized even by developmental psychologists as
politically inspired and drawing unwarrented conclusions for
a couple correlations picked out of a hat while other
correlations are dismissed.

But this topic has been discussed many times, in many
places. So rather than repeating arguments that have been
raised before, I'd like to refer people to the following

On Wed, 6 Apr 2005, Todd Pratum wrote:

It is hard for me to believe that Sudbury people leave the choice of TV up to the kid, say it isn't so!  But for all those
who question the effect TV has on people, (children and adults), I can recommend a tour de force of such clarity and honesty
that you will wonder why it is not on the shelf of every educator, namely Jerry Mander's Four Arguments for the Elimination
of Television (cheap on the internet used at biggest book site in the world).  Scientific studies and
cultural observations are beautifully blended together in this enjoyable book (with good Jewish humor too!).   Although the
book was published in 1978, it has long been considered the classic analysis on the subject and has never gone out of

However, for those like myself who view TV not just as a conduit for junk culture, but as an invasive force that children are
unable to protect themselves against, then I can recommend another classic, Television As an Instrument of Terror: Essays on
Media & Popular Culture, by Arthur Berger, still in print after nearly 25 years.  I would also recommend books by Neil
Postman, one of our greatest media critics, especially his The Disappearance of Childhood, which is a good introduction to
the highly sophisticated psychological and sociological sciences that are employed by big business to mold children into
better consumers.  Both Mander and Postman make it clear that children under the age of 9-10 cannot, in general, think
critically and are therefore unable to fend off the tricks used by thousands of highly paid psychologists who work for
children's departments in advertising agencies. 

In my opinion TV will never change, only get worse, (witness the fact that after all these years of diabetes and obesity they
still pack every cartoon show with commercials for frosted flakes and the like).  But the most interesting question regarding
TV, the question of whether we can actually learn anything meaningful from it, is explored in one of the most important books
I have ever read (no exaggeration), Jerry Mander's In the Absences of the Sacred.  The Failure of High Technology and the
Survival of the Indian Nations (i.e. all native peoples of the world).  This is a monumental study that took him 13 years to
write.  The essence of the book is that high technology takes us away from nature, and the Earth, and that without this
connection we are doomed, (just as native peoples all over the world have been warning us for hundreds of years).  No nature
documentary can replace the actual experience, and according to Mander it is a myth that TV can inspire you to go into
nature, or to fight for its preservation.  I think the continued destruction of the natural world coupled with the rise in TV
watching is evidence of the veracity of this argument.  I apologize for the length of this email!   Todd Pratum.

Richard Berlin wrote:
            Yes, Rich, it sure does - if I can find time I shall have to find the
            newsweek article of which I speak....because of course my sense is that the
            AAP is always quite conservative in their opinions, and so this particular
            statement likely does not accurately reflect the information found in the

      That's interesting.  I don't think the AAP is consistently conservative--at least if I understand how you're
      using the term.  (As the husband of a Bradley childbirth instructor, I frequently research prenatal and pediatric
      topics, by the way, reading the original research papers whenever feasible.)

      For example, the AAP recommendation on breastfeeding is a very long way from the norm:

          six months of exclusive nursing
          nursing for at least a year
          continuing the nursing relationship for as long as it is
              mutually desired by mother and child
          mother and infant sleeping in proximity

      I could go on, but you ought to get the idea--unless you are surrounded by "attachment parents" these practices
      are well outside the norm.  The AAP recommendations are medically safe, but they are socially somewhat
      controversial.  So I would say that in this case the AAP is clearly *leading* the pack rather than following it,
      and not worrying about rocking the boat a little.  Unless, as I said earlier, I'm misconstruing what you mean by

      Interestingly--and this brings us back to the original topic of discussion, I hope--the AAP is on a push to
      encourage evidence-based medicine.  For a definition, see

      The basic idea is that intuition, anecdotal evidence and unsubstantiated theoretical models are insufficient
      grounds for making clinical decisions (especially clinical *policy* decisions, I would think).  In essence, the
      AAP is trying to teach its membership to seek out, understand and weigh all available evidence, rather than
      tuning out information that conflicts with what they already believe and basing their actions on the one-sided
      picture that results.

      It seems to me that by your own admission you are not listening to all the evidence...

            ..anyway, I guess we can be convinced of anything by others' "real"
            information and true experience, we still end up relying on what our heart
            (and head!) says to us is true, at least for us.  So it is for me with
            television and video games, and I emphasize that I am talking about young
            children here, not pre-teens and older.

      ...and that is why I earlier claimed a sacrifice of credibility.  (Credibility with me, anyway.)  You are
      knowingly ignoring evidence that doesn't fit your presupposed conclusion and acting as if there's nothing wrong
      with that.

      For the record, I think that television causes many problems.  (In our house I am pretty sure it contributes to
      obesity, for example.)  But the scientific evidence is mixed, not one-sided.  Because some of it points clearly
      to the quality of the content--not the mere act of watching a box with flashing pictures--and because many of the
      studies are able to show CORRELATION but not CAUSATION, it is simplistic, fallacious, and disingenuous to claim
      that television is "bad for the brain" or "contributes to attention disorders" as you asserted originally.

      By all means, start without a TV.  But if you prohibit it a priori, I'm guessing that eventually one of your
      delightfully intelligent, confident students--who has taught herself how to read, use Google, and possibly even
      evaluate the design of scientific studies--will wave a ream of evidence overhead as she argues at School Meeting
      or Assembly that you've made an arbitrary, nonsensical restriction.

      That would mark a success in Sudbury model education, wouldn't it?


      -- Rich

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Received on Thu Apr 07 2005 - 01:42:13 EDT

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