Last year, I documented my participation in National Turn Off the TV Week (see “What Hath God Wrought?”). I work from home, so my television is on all the time. I never really realized that until I participated in the experiment. The week was hard, I mostly listened to NPR and if the Blazers are playing during this year’s hell week, I don’t know if I’ll be able to stick to my guns. But I’m game.
Turn Off the TV Week is meant to help people take control of the information they receive, instead of letting the information control them. Television has long been lampooned as an unhealthy intrusion into our lives. Everyone knows, you should try to limit your TV time and kids should be forced to play outside instead of slacking around, watching NICK.
But I’d argue that there are some good children’s programs on TV. Sesame Street stands out. PBS offers a number of programs to help kids learn and many of them have study guides available for teachers who plan to screen shows in the classroom.
But lately, I can’t help but notice that the TV shows on Nickelodeon look more and more like tween soap operas. DeGrassi was the first, and undoubtedly the best, soap opera for kids. Since then, the market has exploded and much of the programming for kids has gone downhill. When I run across new schlock marketed towards kids, I have to wonder: what happened to all of the good guys?
The good guys. You know, the ones we idolized around the time that we still thought twinkies were good, trees were for climbing and windowsills were for dreaming. The men and women on TV, yes, television, who made us feel comforted. Special. They taught us stuff, and we, enraptured, pulled up a chair to listen- and learn.
PBS’ Mr. Rogers focused on the basic skills needed to grow up: cooperation, persistence, patience, sharing, the ability to pay attention and to manage frustration. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a values-based program, and the values the show preached still ring true today:
· Children are precious, and their earliest years are exceedingly important in laying the foundation for who and what they become.
· Children grow best when raised in responsible and caring ways.
· The ability to love and be loved is supremely important in every person's life, and that ability is best nurtured in the early years.
· Discipline and control are essential to healthy living -- and the best discipline and control come from within.
· It is important to recognize the worth and the unique abilities of each individual child. Children can -- and do -- contribute in many ways to the life of a family. (PBS Kids)
“It is my contention that most people are not mugged every day, that most people in this world do not encounter violence every day. I think we prepare people for violence, and I think it just as important that we prepare people for the definition of being gentle. ... for so many years gentle has been equated with weakness but it requires more strength to be gentle. So it's the every day encounters of life that I think we prepare children for and prepare them to be good to other people and to consider other people.” (NPR)
I'm not going to sit here, TV blaring, and tell you that I think television is an unnecessary evil. There are plenty of people in my family who watch only PBS. That isn't me. I did turn off my cable several years ago, when I thought I was watching too much television. Then I heard Monday Night Football was moving to ESPN. Which I think is kind of criminal and unfair, but that's another blog.
Every time I hear Morgan Freeman’s voice, I think of the Easy Reader.