12 June 2009
Regularly said in our home: "TV kills your brain! Your brain is getting smushy! Go do something with your brain! Ok, Claire, no, its not getting smushy; but the roads in it that you think on are getting all muddy and bumpy so you can't think as well. Turn it off."
Aside from the popular question 'does tv/video games make kids violent;' there are these questions:
Does it harden us to the suffering in the world? Does it make teen pregnancy seem inevitable, does it make the emasculation of men seem funny, does it make domineering women seem admirable? Does it train us to laugh at injury, laugh at sarcasm, laugh at bullying and meanness?
Does TV paint only the stereotype for us, so that we think we can make judgments at a glance? Does it cause us to be comfortable only with that which we can identify easily, such as the lazy bum or dangerous and mentally ill bum; the inept doctor; the kind and understanding homosexua1? TV rarely allows us to see that there are other, more complex options, like the homeless by choice, the knowledgeable and personally interested doctor, the intolerant homosexua1? I think that TV definitely trains us.
The most dangerous way that TV trains us --and not just children-- is by training our brains to be image dependent. By spitting a stream of captivating images perfectly sequenced to let us effortlessly float along with the plot, we are being trained to prefer the easy and sequential. We like the opportunity to get the 'cheat code' if it's just too hard. We get grumpy when we are confused by the plot line being too twisty or if there is too much technical jargon. We essentially don't want to think about it; we don't want to watch if there is work involved.
Reading is a different kind of brain work altogether. When our brain sees a letter, it trades the visual symbol (for instance, "B") for the sound of 'buh.' Then it strings together the symbols to create a word (book) which turns into a sound chain which then our brain recognizes as the item, Book. There's alot more work involved! So reading is a kind of puzzle that our brain has to figure out. In a glance your eye can take in the images of a TV scene and know where it takes place. But in reading, you have to figure it out. Of course, there is poor quality writing, that is as brainless as TV. Which makes you think, and which gives it to you?
"He ate his muffin at the Starbucks table."
"He peeled the paper off his pastry and leaned back in his chair. His coffee, too hot yet to drink, stood beside his plate. Breaking off a section of muffin, he enjoyed the blueberries popping in small bursts of flavor while he enjoyed the scenery. Outside, the sun dappled the new leaves on the bushes beside the sidewalk. It seemed like cars came to the parking lot like they were pulled toward the green circle beacon of the Starbucks logo."