RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] tv and thinking

From: Scott David Gray <>
Date: Tue Dec 6 22:00:00 2005

On Tue, 6 Dec 2005, Jesse Gallagher wrote:

> Hi Scott and Ann,
> I'm on my way out the door and can't deliver the thorough
> responses that your emails require, but let me just
> address two small points now. I'll get to the rest later
> today, I hope.
> Scott, I totally agree with you in one respect. Our
> culture *is* heavily grounded in television programming.
> I can't spend time with many people, adults or children,
> whose language and archetypes have not been bequeathed
> them by the gods of the TV. I also can't count the number
> of conversations I have overheard (but been unable to
> participate in) that were concerned solely with the
> make-believe problems and make-believe triumphs of
> make-believe people. That point demands further
> elaboration, but later.

  I suppose that I didn't make myself clear. I wasn't
referring to the details of the stories, but rather to the
way of looking at the world granted by the medium itself.

  When the first novels were being published, the way in
which people began to comprehend and think about narrative
*changed*. I don't mean that they knew different facts, but
rather that a person who understood the form of the novel
would look at a sunset (or whatever) in a different way than
a person who *didn't* understand the form of a novel. And
that two people familiar with the novel form would have
unspoken understandings and ways to communicate -- at least
partly nonverbally -- about everything.
  The same is true about the changes wrought by every other
medium. E-mail. Computer gaming. Comic books.

  Understanding the world is *not* simply the acquisition of
facts. It is organizing and understanding it. And this is
where having *multiple* medium help -- a movie can help us
feel us things that a novel can't, each has it's own
strengths and limitations when compared to the way that
messages are understood in music, on the stage, or on TV. In
a media culture, every man, woman, and child uses *all* the
tools at his/her command to view the world differently.
  If you are in a culture in which most people watch TV, you
are in a culture in which most people speak about and
understand things at least in part through the *language* of
TV. You are shooting yourself in the mental foot, by denying
yourself the ability to understand a part of our common
cultural experience.

  I am sad at every common language -- every common medium
-- that I don't know. Just because I don't see *what* is
being conveyed in modern art, does not mean that I should
begrudge another person the use of those tools for
understanding the world.
  If you don't understand TV as anything besides sounds and
flickering pictures, you probably either haven't watched it
enough, or more likely you *have* internalized that language
without even *realizing* that those tools came from TV.
Either way, it's just not right to keep someone else from
those same tools, when those tools are key parts of our
common culture.

  Now, obviously, some TV shows are better produced than
others. Just as with books, plays, music, etcetera. But as
*you* suggested I am discussing the *medium* here rather
than trying to compare this or that particular example.

> Unlike you, I think, I am deeply disturbed by the
> profound influence that television programming has come to
> have in our society in such a short period of time. It's
> powers are of a differrent degree altogether than the
> powers of print--poetry or prose. You'll have to concede
> that as a misleading and inaccurate comparison, or we'll
> be unable to discuss the matter any further.

  I can't and won't concede a point for which I have heard
no evidence.
  I have begged you, several times, to offer some sens not
just *what* your opinions are, but what *proof* makes you
hold those opinions.

  I can't prove a negative. I can't prove that TV doesn't
cause harm, any more than I (or you, or anybody) can prove
that turnips don't cause harm. So the people who make the
*positive* claim need to present evidence, just like the
prosecutor in a trial, or a scientist making a claim.
  You have made your opinions plain. But not why you hold to
those opinions.

  I have done my best, as has Ann, using a shotgun approach,
to answer most of the *implicit* assumptions by the anti-TV
lobby. Yet you have neither debunked, nor even acknowledged
my points about the nature of the experiments in which it
was supposedly "proved" that there is a link between TV and
violent behavior; nor have you actually answered Ann's
challenge that perhaps you are seeing patterns where there
are none. ("I'm sure that some kids who watch TV may be less
creative, or think less for themselves. I'm also sure that
there are people like that who don't watch TV! I wonder if
somehow TV has become a scapegoat.")

I am actually starting to be a little bemused by how the
books-are-innately-superior-to-TV lobby seems to be made up
of people who don't actually seem to *read* what others have
written. At least insofar as the only responses have been on
the order of "is not!" or "these are my opinions" rather
than an honest attempt to understand, argue and persuade.
But, then, I suppose that those are elements of other medium
-- the conversation and the email exchange. Books are *so*
passive and compared to TV, or conversation, or video games
(which isn't to say that they don't have a special place in
the milieu of useful medium)!

> The ubiquity of television-created and
> television-delivered realities and values is, to me, an
> ominous development and not at all evidence that
> television viewing is an important aspect of the healthy
> development of children.
> Ann, though I agree that "research" must constantly be
> questioned and evaluated, your post seemed to dismiss
> research out of hand as being unreliable. I don't think
> you meant to make such a general accusation, particularly
> with a technoligal marvel at your fingertips that owes its
> very existence to said unreliable research. That small
> point aside, I wonder how it is you can confidently
> determine that TV's effects are simply technological and
> not sociological. Even devices with a far less direct
> impact on human culture--such as the blender--exert a
> sociological impact that really can't be measured in any
> meaningful way. For the televison's impact to be limited
> to its technological operation is simply unthinkable to
> me.

  Ann never made a general accusation. She stated that she
looks at these issues critically. Is that a problem?

  *I* made a specific accusation, against the
over-generalization by the pop-psych crowd of limited
research. What moved you to not respond to that?

> OK, I'm pushing tardiness, so I'm off.

  Oh yeah, that's right. You were in such a hurry to posit
your opinions (without proof) that you didn't give others
the benefit of trying to read and think through the issues
enough to respond to their comments before posting. People
can wait a few hours for you to have time, if that is what
it takes!

  Sounds like the sort of laziness that you and others
accuse the TV culture of inculcating. ;-)

> Jesse

--Scott David Gray
reply to:
A person reveals his character by nothing so clearly as the
joke he resents. 
-- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
Received on Tue Dec 06 2005 - 21:58:14 EST

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