Television is a pervasive and complex part of children’s lives, there are many factors that affect how much and what they view. In the essay ?Teaching as an Amusing Activity? (1987), Neil Postman argues television conditions us to tolerate visually entertaining material measured out in chunks at a time. He explains the ways in which the media is changing the way our children are learning.
Neil Postman starts off by explaining how television is being used as an attractive and seductive medium to make children to like school with shows such as Sesame Street. He describes how in a classroom setting allows the student to participate in asking questions and being interactive, while television lures the children with stimulating, colourful and creative images. Neil Postman than compares the difference in learning behaviours between the classroom setting and sitting in front of the television, which is the problem that is facing America today. Television does not encourage children to go to school but also affects their cognitive and social development.
Neil Postman continues on with his idea on how children should learn. It is not what they are learning, since television shows can all be educational, it is how you learn it that is important. By watching television, the children are only expected to play a viewer role, while not realizing the familiarity of their role as a student in a classroom. This is leading American culture in the process of converting their culture from a word-centered to an image-centered society.
Television is more and more becoming a curriculum as pointed out by Postman. It influences, warps and manipulates the young minds of children into believing that education is entertainment. Postman(1985) states that there are three basic commandments that educational television provides (pgs.147,148). The first one is ?Thou shalt have no prerequisites.? It means that the viewer does not have to watch a previous episode or need to watch it from the start to finish. One can just jump in anytime and still understand it. The second commandment is ?Thou shalt induce no perplexity.? If the show becomes confusing and the viewer doesn’t understand, one can simply just change the channel. The final commandment is ?Thou shalt avoid exposition like the ten plagues visited upon Egypt.? In this Postman means that it is not the aim of television to try to explain something, which can be done by books, but rather through entertainment in ways like story telling with creative images and sound effects.
Neil Postman has made it very clear of what television is doing to the educational system. It is taking away the traditional way of classroom learning, of how to interact with other people and respecting your elders. Television shows such as Sesame Street did not teach one those things, but it did teach children letters, words, numbers, classification and other skills considered to be important for school success.
I agree with Postman that television as a teaching device is not all that great, also with its entertainment programs only encourages people to love television more, but it also depends on the viewer. Television is like a drug. It is up to the viewer if he/she wants more of it, how much resistance they are willing to provide.
As stated by the author, more and more educational institutions are switching over to television as a form of teaching. Some things that are found in text books might never be able to be expressed on a screen, but images of solid objects and the sound they might produce can. Young children like moving pictures such as videos over still pictures found in books as it is more entertaining, which leads back to the same question of television being more for entertainment purposes. But that depends on ones views, some may find it as informative, others boring.
Television has its positive and negative influences on children’s intellectual development and behaviour, but television as a medium does not have clear effects on patterns of cognition or achievement. The effects depend on the nature of the programming. Television can be a rich source of stimulating, entertaining learning opportunities, or it can be a mind-numbing waste of time. Interacting with others learned in classrooms and other is something that can never be replaced by images on a screen.