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T.V. is such an eager punching bag. One look at a set-top box offers up a flurry of reasons to knock it around. Denouncing t.v. is a popular pastime for many and teachers tend to mix it up more than most. Among educator circles, t.v. has come to symbolize the coast-to-coast 24-hr. live transmission of ignorance and has absorbed blame for worse than that.

This whole t.v. thing felt like a one-off, one last digression before the start of summer, but it’s offered up a nifty personality test for teachers. From my vantage point, this thing really defines you.

The topic has metastasized to three other blogs (please check out Dean’s, which is absolutely on point with this one) and my input on the matter has devolved frustratingly into a series of “that isn’t what I said,” comments.

So just to tie a bow on this thing:

  • I’m not suggesting you watch more t.v.
  • I’m not suggesting you watch t.v. in your classroom.
  • I’m not suggesting you have to consume days of television on the year in order to have an opinion on t.v.
  • It really really really doesn’t matter to me how much t.v. you or your kids watch.
  • (And please notice here that I haven’t made a point of my own viewing habits in any of this. They’re totally irrelevant. If I never watched the stuff I’d stand as firmly on this point.)
  • This post actually has very little to do with t.v.

My points are these:

  • You can fill an empty blog or an empty book or an empty television set or an empty 16-track mixer with either garbage or gold.
  • As teachers, whether we read blogs or read books or watch t.v. or listen to music or not, we can help students sort through a given medium’s good & bad.  (Reading and watching and listening tends to help, though.)
  • But we cannot do that — truly we cannot engage our students in a discussion of why a particular show is worth our time or whether we are spending too much time engaged by a particular medium — if, in the backs of our heads, we’re muttering to ourselves, “T.V. is just wrecking these kids,” if we don’t share their curiosity or their tuning to the potential of things. Really we can’t. That kind of disgenuousness is blatant and hypocrisy reeks.
  • As educators, our professional code is of questionable value if we’d rather abolish a medium entirely than model moderation.
  • (I mean, seriously, what kind of message does that send? That our only options are “all” or “nothing?”)

This thing traces back so quickly to free speech, a medium over which wars have been fought and blood spilled, distinctions which, to the best of my knowledge, t.v. can’t yet claim. This slope some of these educators are standing on is so slippery. This outdated attitude would be merely roguish, charmingly provocative, if I were talking to a college friend over beers on my back porch. But these are educators, which makes this a little more unnerving.

10 Responses to “Shoot The Messenger Not The Medium”

  1. on 22 Jun 2007 at 3:16 amTony Lucchese

    I seriously can’t believe this discussion has gone on so long.

  2. on 22 Jun 2007 at 7:04 amMindy

    And here’s one of the questions I’ve asked when confronted with that “t.v. has no value” attitude. How is a story on t.v different than a story in a movie and different than a story in literature? Or even watching a story unfold, live, in front of us, at the family get-together?

    Don’t we, or can’t we, analyze and take something from everything we encounter in our lives? Even from the so-called garbage on t.v.?

  3. on 22 Jun 2007 at 7:36 amKelly Christopherson

    Huh? You say
    “This outdated attitude would be merely roguish, charmingly provocative, if I were talking to a college friend over beers on my back porch. But these are educators, which makes this a little more unnerving.”

    yet you state

    “This thing traces back so quickly to free speech, a medium over which wars have been fought and blood spilled, distinctions which, to the best of my knowledge, t.v. can’t yet claim.”

    so, as long as you agree with what you say, it’s okay but if you don’t, you’re somehow less than you? Come on Dan. In a discussion, two sides are allowed to have their points of view and just because people won’t agree with you doesn’t mean you get to somehow question their integrity or their intelligence or anything like that. That is what the students I discuss with do when they get backed into a corner.
    You have yet to provide any real good reason other than

    “But we cannot do that — truly we cannot engage our students in a discussion of why a particular show is worth our time or whether we are spending too much time engaged by a particular medium — if, in the backs of our heads, we’re muttering to ourselves, “T.V. is just wrecking these kids,” if we don’t share their curiosity or their tuning to the potential of things. Really we can’t. That kind of disgenuousness is blatant and hypocrisy reeks.”

    Now, I’ll disagree with you because:
    1. You do not, and I state firmly, have to be watching whatever your students are watching or listening to in order to have a discussion about it and enter into a very good reflection in its affects just as you don’t have to smoke and get cancer to have a discussion about the affects that smoking has on you body or drink a few energy drinks before a sporting event in order to have a discussion about the effect of high levels of caffeine on you body, especially that of a teenager.
    2. You seem to use the “all or nothing” attitude in reverse. We all have to do the same thing as the students or we’re hypocrits. Really. So, unless I’m going to Raves and doing ecstacy, I can’t talk about the affects such actions have on people or the possible consequences because I’ll be a hypocrite.
    3. You stand on the box of free speech yet you belittle anyone who will disagree with you. So, as in my response to the last post, while you watch your tv, I’ll read and look at the affects that huge amounts of tv will have on the lifestyle of various age groups. I’ll take a look at the effect that watching particular types of programming seems to have on a particular portion of society. I’ll do some surveying to see what the trends of teens and tweens in my school are so I can have an accurate idea of what to discuss. Now, I’ll base my information on a variety of sources while you have your own opinion because you watched the show. Plus, I’ll throw in the effect that such habits are having on people’s lives and the necessity for moderation in order to maintain a balance.
    So, instead of judging me as a hypocrite and all the rest, listen (or read) what is said (typed). I do not denounce tv as the evil just as the internet isn’t evil or music isn’t evil. They can’t be, they are inanimate. Now, the question is how do people use them and what messages are they giving.
    In the end, we may agree to disagree but don’t insult me because I won’t agree with you. If you’re going to make your stand on the theory that we have to do or watch in order to discuss with authority or we’re hypocrites, that’s your opinion. I don’t agree.

  4. on 22 Jun 2007 at 7:44 amKelly Christopherson

    PS – personality test? Defines me? Please. How shallow are you Dan?

  5. on 22 Jun 2007 at 9:23 amdan
    MINE: That isn’t what I said.

    Feels like you’re just skimming here, Kelly. At least I’ve stated and restated my thesis so many times now, I can just copy & paste.

    MINE: I’m not suggesting you have to consume days of television on the year in order to have an opinion on t.v.

    and:

    MINE: As teachers, whether we read blogs or read books or watch t.v. or listen to music or not, we can help students sort through a given medium’s good & bad. (Reading and watching and listening tends to help, though.) [extra emphasis added]

    What is totally antithetical to my job description is a prejudice against any particular medium. I can’t start from this jaundiced position so many educators have adopted towards t.v. and expect to have any transformative effect on my kids vis-a-vis their interactions with t.v.

    I’m not belittling or insulting anyone. It concerns me that teachers think this way. (And, really, it’s impossible for me to know what you or anyone else thinks. Speculation has been pretty easy in some cases, though.) This issue isn’t a career-breaker but I do think it’s a poor way to go about this job.

  6. on 22 Jun 2007 at 7:30 pmKelly Christopherson

    Yes siree, it’s all cut and paste now.

    You: Reading and watching and listening tends to help, though.)

    This was following your first point. No skimming, I read carefully.

    So, I’d like to point out your next little comment;

    You: But we cannot do that — truly we cannot engage our students in a discussion of why a particular show is worth our time or whether we are spending too much time engaged by a particular medium — if, in the backs of our heads, we’re muttering to ourselves, “T.V. is just wrecking these kids,” if we don’t share their curiosity or their tuning to the potential of things. Really we can’t. That kind of disgenuousness is blatant and hypocrisy reeks.

    You: What is totally antithetical to my job description is a prejudice against any particular medium. I can’t start from this jaundiced position so many educators have adopted towards t.v. and expect to have any transformative effect on my kids vis-a-vis their interactions with t.v.

    Really? So, you use all medium without prejudice? Even the lecture format?
    You: Some of the same folks will, themselves, be lecturing at keynotes and breakout sessions of their own, likely snapping bulleted lists off in PowerPoint, a hypocrisy that defies explanation.

    Man, for someone who hasn’t been in the game very long, you sure seem to know it all. You’ve got it all covered and the rest of us are just chumps. Power to you man. Call me up in another 15 years and we’ll see how you’ve done – what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Nothing makes me feel better than knowing that guys like you are going to save education with your presentation design and public speaking extrodinaire. You, who pick and choose your own words to make a point and don’t include ALL the information.
    You’ve all the answers –

    You: As educators, our professional code is of questionable value if we’d rather abolish a medium entirely than model moderation.

    Really? Well, what is your stance on: War in Afganistan, Abortion, Homosexual Marriages, Racism, and a million other really important things? Since you have the right professional code, let us have the answers.

    You: (I mean, seriously, what kind of message does that send? That our only options are “all” or “nothing?”)

    Well, that depends. Last time I talked to my recovering alcoholic neighbour, it was nothing. Myself, someone with a bit of a tv addiction problem, nothing. The drug councelor in our school talks about nothing all the time. On the other hand, when we discuss inclusion in our classrooms, it’s all. When we discuss how we interact and treat others, it’s all. Myself, when I work with a student to find a solution to a problem that is threatening their continuing at school, I try all avenues. So, the message is that, in some situations it is really all or nothing. In this case, you’re probably close to the mark with moderation but for those people who are suffering from type II diabetes and congestive heart problems, it’s probably all.
    But, hey, you know it all!

  7. on 22 Jun 2007 at 7:35 pmKelly Christopherson

    Oh, I forgot to add this little number:

    You: truly we cannot engage our students in a discussion of why a particular show is worth our time or whether we are spending too much time engaged by a particular medium — if, in the backs of our heads, we’re muttering to ourselves, “T.V. is just wrecking these kids,” if we don’t share their curiosity or their tuning to the potential of things. Really we can’t. That kind of disgenuousness is blatant and hypocrisy reeks.

    So, we do a bit of adapting to your thought scheme and we get:

    truly we cannot engage our students in a discussion of why a particular drug is worth our time or whether we are spending too much time engaged by a particular drug — if, in the backs of our heads, we’re muttering to ourselves, “Drugs are just wrecking these kids,” if we don’t share their curiosity or their tuning to the potential of things. Really we can’t. That kind of disgenuousness is blatant and hypocrisy reeks.

    Of course, your arguement is that drugs and tv are not the same. True, but both can be addicting, cause all kinds of health problems and can lead to social problems. So, straighten me out on this one.

    [edited to close an html tag]

  8. [...] Well, as Dan points out, this tv thing has sure been a real discussion maker. Now, a few weeks ago, I wrote about Andrew Keen and his comments about the internet, professional media and monkeys. It was picked up by Vicki Davis who did a wonderful job in her post. Now, the one thing that struck me was her comment: [...]

  9. on 23 Jun 2007 at 2:47 amTony Lucchese

    Uh, am I in the right place? When did this forum become so violent? Here I am reading one of my favorite blogs and then WHAM! craziness ensues.

    Kelly, I’ve read and reread every quote that you’re pulling, and I think you miss the point completely. So far as I know, there have been no peer reviewed studies that place the dangers of TV in the same order of magnitude as these drugs of which you speak. Though technically, I suppose if you have ever enjoyed the sensations that come from using anything as accepted as coffee or alcohol and then turn around and say “drugs are just ruining these kids” you are being at least a bit hypocritical, like say someone who has ever enjoyed watching tv lambasting that medium.

    And since you keep bringing up the subject. Some of the most successful programs to keep kids off drugs are run by or involve people whose own lives have been severely affected by drugs. Their experience gives them a certain credibility and makes them better, oh what’s the word, teachers. By the same token, being a bit familiar with the medium of television will bring credibility to classroom conversation on the topic and unless you are really and truly concerned about damaging your own brain, I suggest you calm down and take Dan’s advice.

    I have no doubt he will be around in 15 years to continue rebutting your ludicrous arguments.

  10. [...] Dan Meyer, he doesn’t get it at all. Now, Dan has made a few bold statements about tv, teachers and ability to engage students. I won’t go into details, you can check them out. Now, what he doesn’t get is that it doesn’t matter what you intended – it matters what you actually say and how what you say is interpreted.  I believe that the saying is “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Now there were a few things that began to concern me about what was happening with this. First, the comment Dan left about another commentor over at Chris’s site. [...]