“TV stops the critical processes of the brain.”
-Jerry Mander, Four arguments for the elimination of television
The author grew up watching some wonderful television programs and, while no longer watching television per se, does enjoy DVDs and especially VHS (ability to pop one in and take over right where one left off in a stack of films). The author’s interest in Jerry Mander’s book has to do with critical thinking and not a belief that television has not produced some very high quality programs.
This is the second in a series of films and books which I would like to highly recommend one see, or read, to help one hone up on critical thinking skills. The first of these was last issue’s recommendation to watch the classic b&w film, 12 Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda.
I believe critical thinking is a very important skill to have in the sciences but that a loss of critical thinking ability is why so many (90%?) with a modern higher educational background are so easily duped by science evolution myths claimed as ‘facts’ when virtually anyone who has held onto critical thinking skills from childhood would at the very least be able as adults to question such myths should conflicting evidence be presented to them. One would expect so, right? Because of the twenty-year observation that this is not the case, i.e. that most “educated” adults (based on statistics) do not have the ability I have been very interested in knowing how this could have happened in the first place and have studied the problem in depth—the phenomena of persuasion, rhetoric, propaganda, brainwashing, cults, captive audience ideological education, etc. I believe the skill is lost because of a one-two punch that nearly everyone getting a standard 20th-21st Century Eurocentric education has been the victim of: 1.) indoctrinate people beginning in childhood and sustain it without tolerance for questioning throughout higher education (it can be through television or through the captive audience science classroom), coupled with, 2.) be absolutely certain to either prevent (preferably) or remove the ability of critical thinking right off the bat. If you think you are safe in your belief because you are backed by 900 million scientists and followers, consider this exploration of critical thinking as a challenge. As we all know, it is as easy to dupe a million (via propaganda) as it is to dupe one.
Jerry Mander’s book was an important part of learning critical thinking for me:
Sometime back in the Eighties I was perusing with a few friends one of my favorite haunts of the time, Borders Book Store. It isn’t always that one can remember the very moment one first saw a particular book—but I do with Four arguments for the elimination of television.
Not only do I recall the exact moment, but it is probably also the only book I ever purchased where I recall my exact thoughts upon seeing it:
“What’s THIS?! Yeah, right.”
That was pretty much the end of my skepticism because within five seconds I had the book in my hands. Once I began to skim it I realized there was something here. If your thinking upon seeing the book’s title is as typical and knee-jerk as mine was then I highly recommend that you read this book. It is as pertinent in today’s modern media world as it was when it was written.
Years later, some of the things I learned from Mander’s book really hit home for me when I learned of the technique Sesame Street producers used while learning how to control children through TV and, in the process, take away years of normal inclination for creative activity or exploration. They did it by tracking the eye movements of subject children watching their test programs. If any child looked away from the screen for a second that was a sign that the programming had to be re-worked in that section. The goal was make it so that the children could not look away from the screen.
What do you think happens in higher science education when you are not allowed to look away from an ideology? You don’t even know how to look away or look at conflicting evidence for yourself because you are already convinced it doesn’t exist. Intrigued? I hope so.