My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Boob Tube

I had a nice weekend, for once, so I’m feeling good. My husband & I dropped the kids off at my dad’s Saturday night and had a delicious Mexican dinner with my sister and her husband. Then we watched Wes Anderson’s “Bottle Rocket” over beer and brownies.

I’ve been thinking about some of the discussion and comments from my kindergarten post last week, especially readersguide’s comment about the merits of boredom and harriet’s worries about academics eroding opportunities for play.

While kindergarten is going in a more academic direction, I think we may be expecting too much out of public school, as a country. Schooling used to consist of the basics. Now we expect teachers to “teach” all manner of topics including self-esteem, morals and personal hygiene. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (though, god, wasn’t Health Class boring when it wasn’t downright ridiculous?) but when we insert all these extras, we’re losing many important things like art and creative exploration, recess, free reading time.

Much of this stuff is our responsibility – teaching our kids how to behave (not that they always listen or care), distinguishing right from wrong (not that we’re always the best example), etc. So, now that schools lack what we feel it ought to have, we’ll have to pick up the slack. I’m not anti-progress or one of those back-to-basics proponents, but I think enough’s enough. At least until teachers are paid what they’re worth and treated as more than secretaries with teaching certificates.

And, yes, many kids aren’t that lucky. Which is why, for the greater good, teachers found themselves instructing middle schoolers on the importance of a daily bath (I did not grow up with a shower – we just had a claw foot tub and a hose attachment – but I was clean), running interference when fights broke out, etc. And it’s why schools hired guidance counselors – problems at home were keeping kids from learning.

So, we can’t have it all but I, at least, can fill in the blanks in my own home. Dusty gets ample opportunity to play. It’s pretty much what she does. One reason for that is that the television is rarely on. The kids watch one half-hour of television per night, and not every night. They watch the dvds we’ve purchased: Rocky & Bullwinkle, Bugs Bunny, The Electric Company, the occasional movie. Dusty never watches cable shows unless she’s sick. Period.

I rarely (read: never) agree with our paper’s editor (who is the most pompous ass*ole known to man; I mean, I can’t take anyone seriously who perches his reading glasses up on his bare scalp AND wears a bowtie. I mean, come on!) but I read a recent op/ed he wrote (back in 1980 and reprinted last week) about television vs reading with interest. Here it is.

I’m so happy that we never got the kids in the habit of watching a lot of television. While there are times when life would be much easier, short term, for me if I used the tv as a babysitter while I went off and used the computer or tidied up; long term I wouldn’t be acting responsibly. I want to raise kids who, like readersguide wrote, discover things out of sheer boredom (not that my kids are ever bored). Kids who find immense pleasure in reading (Dusty’s just read the entire “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein to herself) as I did as a kid.

I remember spending entire DAYS lying around the house on a summer day just reading. One summer, I was in Michigan visiting my best friend and we would go to the library, check out 10 books each, go back and read our stack, and then switch. After we’d each read all 20 books, we’d go back for more. Those are the kind of memories I want my children to have of their childhood, not being able to recite all the inane shows they watched on Noggin or Nick Jr.

Now, I’m not going to debate the merits of the current shows for children. They are not, in and of themselves, bad (apart from Barney, which I hate with every fiber of my being). Dusty enjoyed the rare Teletubbies viewing and really liked the Boobahs because they were so absurd (you can’t tell me the creators aren’t smoking something fun). But, I’d rather they found other things to do, that they didn’t fall back on the bad habit of television as a default. That, if bored, they find something constructive (or, in Red’s case, destructive) to do. And I say this as someone who watched an ungodly amount of television in my youth. Because my parents were the TV1 generation and thought it was a wonderful thing. It never occurred to them (and they were readers, artists, and non-middle class) that my television viewing should be curtailed just a tiny bit.

I am the TV2 generation and know that technology can be good and bad – and we need to use our common sense about it. Television does things that no other media can do (pre computer age, that is). I vividly remember the men landing on the moon. My mother woke me up (I was three) and sat me in front of the screen so that I could witness history happen. So, I’m not one of those snooty, “Oh, I haven’t owned a television in years!” kind of people. Far from it. I like a little television – I have a slew of favorite shows – but I’m not just going to sit and watch stupidity. If there’s really nothing on that I want to see, that’s worth my time, I turn it off and open a book. I actually read during commercials anyway so I’ve been a multi-media-tasker for years.

I’d prefer that my kids wait as long as possible before becoming couch potatoes. And, maybe if I’m lucky, that’ll never happen. I’d rather they engage their minds and creativity with toys and art and books. There is nothing like a really good story. On paper.


10:06 a.m. ::
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