Book Worship/anti-TV, anti-video,

First a little thing from (me, then Anna/yogiballerina), about book dependency, and after that Joyce and Ren on a related issue:

There was a time when the only way for a kid to get information from outside his home and neighborhood was books. (Think Abraham Lincoln, log cabin in the woods far from centers of learning.) Now books tend to be outdated, and is better for information. If Abraham Lincoln had had full-color DVDs of the sights of other countries, of people speaking in their native accents and languages, and of history, he would have shoved those books aside and watched those videos.

When someone thinks books are the one crucial step to any further learning, then books and school have crippled that person's ability to think expansively, and to see what's unfolding in front of them in the real world.

Just wanted to bookmark this quote because it is an important one. I have come around to seeing this the hard way through my son. Two years ago after ps I tried to limit videogames. I have given up. now he surfs the net every day and I forward my "so simple to make money this way a child could do it" emails to him to screen and make a decision. He'll be 12 in a month, but his onscreen identities are 18+. I supervise to screen out net predators, but that's all. He's way ahead of me in cyberspace.

...and about that TV question:

Below is a succinct response to a simple anti-TV prejudice, expressed clearly by Joyce Fetteroll:

Someone on an e-mail list wrote (and the responses are Joyce):

Are there any other unschoolers out there that are living TV free?

If your whole family has decided not to have TV then is there anything to discuss?

What if someone had written:

For a multitide of reasons my family does not own any books and we have no intention of getting any anytime soon. I understand the idea of not restricting the time or content of book reading if you have them, but we don't.

If *your family* has decided they don't want TV then that's what your family wants.

But if by "my family" you mean you and your husband, then what you're wanting to discuss is restricting children's access to a resource. And it's no different than discussing restricting access to books or the internet.

If someone doesn't have TV reception and cable is beyond their means, then it's useful to discuss ways that kids to get access to the world beyond their horizons.


AlwaysLearning list
October 2003

Ren's reponse to the same question:
"Are there any other unschoolers out there that are living TV free?"

That would be like limiting music, or books, or travel, or colors, or radio, or movies, or nature or....???Ack!

Why would an unschooler want to keep such an incredible source of information from their family?

Just for the record, I had no tv for a time, then was rather restrictive about the whole thing, and now, with NO restrictions can honestly say that is BEST.

My kids have learned so very much from television and contrary to common myth, they do not watch all day or let tv "rule" their lives (althought they watched a TON for about 1.5 years).

They are avid video gamers also and we all love movies.

Learning is everywhere.

I would not choose to limit any method of communication from my children, radical unschoolers that they are, absorbing information as though by osmosis! Give them access to the world, don't stand in their way, and you'll be amazed what a wonderful, incredible tool television is.

My unlimited children will get just as excited about the periodic table of elements (Trevor this week) as they will about the latest episode of Cowboy Bebop.

Even my unlimited 2y.o. will walk away from tv, something I wouldn't have believed possible many years ago. He also asks me to tuck him in when he gets tired, another side benefit of freedom!

Unschooling requires that we, as parents, lose the prejudices society lays upon our schooled minds, and learn to see all modes of communication as worthy. In order to truly honor our children, they must make their own choices...which includes television viewing.

About the prejudice Maya9 wrote:
I've seen my Aunt, who is very anti-tv, sit staring at her book (an avid reader) not moving for hours, lost to the room, and then get annoyed at someone for staring at the tv, not moving for hours, lost to the room—it's as if what is going on in her head while she is in that state must have value because it involves a book, while what is going on in the tv veiwer's head must not have value, because it involves a tv.

Lyle Perry, on reading and readers:
I have two boys, one's a reader, and one isn't, by society's standards. My reader loves books, his room is a maze of stacks of books and magazines, they are literally everywhere. My non-reader loves TV and movies, and spends a lot of time on the net. He reads, and reads well, he just doesn't like books.

The non-reader has a better vocabulary than his older brother the reader. He understands things immediately, where his older brother is more of a "sit down and think about it" sort of person. The non-reader's mind is very fast paced and wants to be in the middle of the action, where his older brother is more comfortable sitting on the sidelines and observing.

Both are very happy boys. Both have found their place in their world.

Some people are drawn to the written word, some get more from the spoken word. Neither is better than the other. School and society has built up reading to be something of a be-all-end-all of survival in the modern world, and scorns those that choose another way.

Reading books = smart.
Not reading books = ...not so smart.
What a crock.


Joyce Fetteroll, in response to the idea that early readers will learn more:
If you look at the world through reading glasses, that's true. 😉 We as a society are very reading-centric. We're familiar with the process of absorbing massive amounts of information through books. We can easily imagine information that would be very difficult to absorb any other way.

But if society tomorrow dropped reading and turned to hands on learning or visual learning, we'd be much better at seeing the ways reading is limited. That doesn't mean that books aren't best in some situations. But we've put reading on such a pedestal that we elevate the skills we can learn through reading and look down on the skills we learn other ways.

I think the biggest limitation of information gathered through reading is that the reader experiences the connections made by and passed on by the writer. While we'll absorb some of those connections and we'll make some connections the writer may have missed, it's not how we're naturally hardwired to learn. We're hardwired to learn by pulling our own order from chaos, refining our understanding, testing it out, using it, refining it further. (How babies pull a mastery of language out of the chaos of noise interacting with and swirling around them.) We don't *naturally* learn by taking in chunks of other people's information. While some people seem to be able to learn that way, it isn't what's natural and it's very difficult for many people.

From the lowest organism that can learn from experience to the highest order organisms, we all learn by pulling order from chaos. It's how we evolved to learn. We can watch others and learn, but we don't truly learn until we're doing something for our own personally meaningful reasons.

Learning Spanish from a book and an instructor will fail miserably for most people. And yet kids pick a language up effortlessly when immersed in it. (As do adults who trust the process.) Hair dressing. Swimming. Auto repair. Sewing. Skiing. Painting. Brain surgery. Rocket science. Pool playing. Horse racing.

While reading could add to the knowledge, we're doing a disservice to other more natural ways of learning when we barely notice their contribution. Watching a video will also add knowledge. As does talking to people. Each has their strengths and can all enhance the learning. But where we build the foundation, though, is in hands on doing and trying and thinking and talking and redoing and so on.

I think a big problem is that testing is easiest to do on knowledge gained through reading. It's hard to test how effectively people are building their own connections. But with reading, we can more easily design tests to show how much someone has absorbed of the (basically) predigested material.

Does that make learning from reading superior? No, it makes learning from reading easily testable.


TO BE CONTINUED... The evils of serialization?

One complaint about comics used to be that they were "to be continued," and unpredictable. It's a complaint about TV series' too, that they waste time (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and such), like old radio serials (Lone Ranger). Better to read a classic novel, right? Right?!

At AlwaysLearning, Sandra Dodd wrote:
Charles Dickens did primetime serials. Reading Charles Dickens novels is the equivalent of watching a full season of Lost or Boston Legal all at once, having not seen them as they came out.
I was going to say the same thing about The Three Musketeers (and its two sequels), by Alexandre Dumas, père. These are studied in school as classics, but I'm sure at the time they were written they were "just" entertainment" (and, like Dickens' novels, they were first published as a series in a newspaper.)



Stanford University did a "community reading project" based around Dickens. You could sign up to participate and they would send you paper copies in serial fashion. That part of the project is over, but you can still download the materials in PDF format.

I believe that they are getting ready to do the same thing with Sherlock Holmes.


On Choice and Control

Joyce Fetteroll responding:

Having the television on all day is not something I want and I live here too.

Did they turn it on themselves and watch it all day? For how many months? What other things did they have in their lives that they enjoyed doing that were available to them? Did you take them out to places and were they unhappy and wanting to get back to the TV? How much did you watch with them? How much were they left to themselves?

Having the television on all day is not something I want and I live here too.

And if they did want it on all day and you didn't then there are two sets of incompatible desires. And the solution to that dilemma you're modeling for your kids is that bigger, stronger people get to have what they want and smaller, weaker people get the shaft.

If we spent our childhoods doing what our parents wanted us to do and we enter adulthood (and then parenthood) trying to fulfill the need to do what we want, then we pass that legacy of neediness and unhappiness onto our children. And our relationship with our kids isn't as joyful as it could be because using our power to get our way creates an adversarial relationship with them.

It's helpful in terms of building a relationship to recognize that children have no power over the world. All the power they wield is what they get through us.

If our goal is to have our own way, then having kids isn't a good way to achieve that. If our goal is to help our kids (give them the power to) get what they want in life — which is the goal of unschooling — then we need to recognize when we're being our own roadblock to our goal.

Blocking our children's access to something they like (TV) is being a roadblock to our goal. If you set your sights on helping them get what they want out of life, then the things you want your way won't seem as important as they did in the past.

That doesn't mean we should set our needs aside entirely. If we don't respect ourselves, our kids won't respect us either. But it doesn't help our relationship if we take away our kids power (that they're getting through us) in order to respect ourselves.

My opinion may change as they grow older. They will have to make their own choices.
The more help and practice they have when they're younger trying to get what they want (on things that aren't dangerous), the easier it will be when they have the power and freedom to do whatever they want with choices that are dangerous.

Learning how to make choices between TV shows is much safer than learning how to make choices when cars and alcohol are available.

Do you think at four years my daughter should be the one deciding what shows to watch?

At four does she go to the adult section of the library and pull out The Joy of Sex and full color photos of war? Those things just don't interest kids.

My daughter has always been able to choose what she wanted to watch. She didn't much care about flipping through channels at 4 but by 6 she would search for the stations that had cartoons. She'd pass by anything live action.

There isn't any reason for little kids to be watching shows that we fear they'll watch. They won't want to see the news or sex or violence. It just doesn't interest them. (And if it does, then it's likely there's something else going on in their lives that they need help with.)

(There are, though, kids who develop deep compassion early who can be upset by images of people being mean to each other. Rather than avoiding TV, we can help them have power over TV by helping them figure out ways to get to what they want on TV while avoiding seeing the things they don't want to see.)

What about the influence of commercial TV? Do you not think that has an affect on the gimmes and yes I did read about 'Magical Thinking and Spoiled Children' and agree completely. So does that mean I should not worry about commercial TV?

You can talk about advertisements with them to give them power over them.

I think it's more helpful to use commercials for things the kids don't want — adult stuff like laundry detergent and toys that don't interest them — for discussion rather than using the commercials for things they want. If we use commercials for things they want the kids will recognize the agenda isn't commercial awarenes but is really about convincing them they're being decieved and manipulated into wanting that product.

What about the news or just the news flashes? Regular prime-time news coverage is not really something a 4 year old needs to hear about let alone a 29 year old.
My daughter has told me that news flashes don't seem real to her. And we've talked about that being advertising for the news. The stations want us to watch the news so they make it sound like the sky is falling so we'll feel like we have to watch it.
Is there a place for me in the chat group with my views on TV or should I reconsider my involvement in this chat group?
As in a place where people can comfortably share the walls they've built up around their fears rather than examining whether those fears have foundations and discussing ways to deal with the fears?

Building and maintaining walls against what we fear is always much easier than examining and dealing with fears. But walls give power to the things we fear beyond what they have. Knowledge helps us understand what the true power is of the things we fear and gives us power over them.


Having the television on all day is not something I want and I live here too.

We don't have the television on all day.

You live there too, but if your priority is your children's learning, then limiting input is going to make that more difficult.

Do you think at four years my daughter should be the one deciding what shows to watch?
I think (from years of experience at these kinds of exchanges) that what you're envisioning and what I would be talking about would be two extremely different things.

My short answer is "yes."

I don't think she will even BEGIN to choose the shows you're afraid of.

What about the influence of commercial TV?
"The influence" so far is that they know that the broadcast is free because the sponsors paid for it. They were TINY little when we explained that companies pay for advertising on TV, radio, magazines, billboards, and newspapers. When the boys were little they were glad to know what toys were being offered at which fast-food places, and they watched for those ads. Some toys they weren't interested in; some they were. They were discerning even about fast-food toys.

Some people are teens or adults when they first realize that commercials appeal to fantasy and self-image. My kids have known it since they were young, and so not only did they discuss it and get over it, but they've freed up their minds to think of loftier things.

We got a copy of GQ (Gentleman's Quarterly) last week, for articles on three guys Marty really likes (The Rock, Conan O'Brien and Jack Black). That magazine is mostly ads. Holly and I looked at a few and talked about how some appeal to European fantasy, some to teens (not by SHOWING teens), etc. We had an English version (not of the same issue) brought by a travelling friend, and the ads were really different.

That's art, psychology, photography, commerce...
Holly is 11. She understands things now that I didn't understand until I was in college.

Do you not think that has an affect on the gimmes and yes I did read about 'Magical Thinking and Spoiled Children' and agree completely.
My kids have never "had the gimmes."

I've tried to even change the words in which I will think about my children and their environment. There are LOTS of phrases used as put-down and belittlement.

  • "gimmes"
  • spoiled rotten
  • boob tube
  • junk food
  • brat
  • mindless tv
  • zombie
  • daydreaming (better connotation for some people than others)

    It's possible to have long conversations with other parents that don't require much thought, that don't say anything original and are very disrespectful of children as a class and as individuals. Part of what got me where I am today was a conscious choice NOT to go there.

    My husband was at a "no children" barbecue with people from work, and they got to badmouthing teens. What they were saying did NOT apply to our teens, and it might not even have applied to theirs. They were just having a canned conversation about how irresponsible and stupid teens are, and how hard it is to be the parent of a lazy teen who never thinks. When Keith did say something flattering about Kirby, our oldest, one of the parents made a dismissive comment and they went back to their martyrly insults of people who had been disallowed from the party.

    Parents do it without thinking. They do it about school starting, they do it when they use terms like

  • rug rats
  • drape apes
  • just a kid
  • young'uns (some manage to use that without insult; others intend to create us/them)

  • So does that mean I should not worry about commercial TV?
    It means I don't and lots of other people don't. You can worry about what you want to worry about, but wouldn't it be cool if your 'worry' list could be shorter?

    What about the news or just the news flashes? Regular prime-time news coverage is not really something a 4 year old needs to hear about let alone a 29 year old.

    My kids don't watch the news. They could if they wanted to. They rarely choose to.

    Is there a place for me in the chat group with my views on TV or should I reconsider my involvement in this chat group?
    What are you really asking?
    Would you feel better if people weren't honest?
    Are you looking for a group that says whatever anyone does is great and all parenting decisions are equally close to unschooling success?

    You're welcome to stay in this group, but if you express your views they probably WILL be questioned and dissected. It's part of learning about unschooling for people to pick apart other parents' theories and ideas and practices.


    Elizabeth wrote:

    My four year old decides what to watch. As does my five year old. They always have. When I broke my ankle a year ago (has it really been a year?), they learned to work the remote themselves because asking me would have taken too much time. They pop in a video or dvd, change the channels, adjust the volume (usually lower) whenever they want. This morning they watched 101 Dalmatians and now they are playing with their new-to-them action figures I got at a used toy sale. Robin just said to Batman "We can go draw a picture, play with clay, make a house out of blocks or help my daddy paint the steps. What do you want to do?"

    They have never elected to watch the news, it's not interesting to them. They have chosen opera, ballet and eyewitness movies about dinosaurs or cats, things like that. They have also chosen Dora, Telletubbies, Arthur and other non-educational shows. We have GREAT conversations during and after Arthur, but I don't like the show at all. They enjoy it when Mark and I watch "Whose Line is it Anyway" aka The Funny Show, because they like to see us laugh. They aren't as happy with a Ken Burns documentary, but snuggle with us anyway.

    My two love the commercials that come on between shows and on the videos, but have only once asked for something. Sometimes they recognize their own toys on the commercials. They are learning how to make purchasing decisions. Better now than when they are young adults with their own credit card debt! They understand our budget limitations and make choices accordingly. I remember thinking my mother was just mean for not getting me a particular Barbie, my kids see how money works. Commercialism surrounds us, better to learn how to deal with it than avoid it.


    The list on which most of this discussion took place was
    Always Learning.


    I was off reading speculation about the next Harry Potter book, and on a discussion board I found something in passing that I think I'll add to my book worship collection. It's not a gem, but it's a fairly good rock. Written by some Harry Potter fan somewhere in 2005:
    When Dumbledore mentions him to Hagrid, he implies that Aberforth might not be able to read which means its likely that Aberforth, while his intentions are good, might not have inherited Dumbledore's wisdom.
    Equating the ability to read with wisdom seems a jump.
    Thing is, this isn't the first time I've heard this.

    And on a slightly-related (in that both involve teens, I suppose) thing, on Neopets, intelligence comes from reading books, not being great at the math puzzles.

    On Feb 16, 2006, at 2:11 AM, Sanguinegirl... wrote:
    Then, the books got tossed on the floor, piled on top of and inadvertently stepped on. Still, there hasn't been much major damage, but it still gets one of my hidden "no no chords" to see books treated like that.
    Sandra response:
    One of my most uncomfortable times was being at a birthday party when Kirby and Marty were 2 and 5 or so, and one of the games was like cake walk, but the mom (who wanted to offload a bunch of kids' books), would put books on the floor in a circle and the kids would step from book to book until the music stopped. They could keep the book they were on then, and more books were put down. It wasn't the give-away that bothered me, it was kids stepping on books.

    It wasn't damaging the books. There was carpet and the kids were in socks or barefooted. It makes me think I should file this in the "book worship" category.

    I don't mind people putting their feet on phone books or junk mail, or hand-made coffeetables that took MUCH more work and thought than the mass production of a book that was in a run of tens of thousands.

    Quote found in an online course on unschooling:

    “With the world's bookshelves loaded with fascinating and inspired books, the very manna sent down from Heaven to feed your souls, you are forced to read a hideous imposture called a school book, written by a man who cannot write: A book from which no human can learn anything: a book which, though you may decipher it, you cannot in any fruitful sense read, though the enforced attempt will make you loathe the sight of a book all the rest of your life.”

    —George Bernard Shaw, winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature

    Disappointed that my kids weren't the "bookworms" I (Sandra Dodd) had been, I thought as honestly and as candidly as I could about WHY I read so many books as a child. Escapism. So I wrote an article about our hopes that our children would play band instruments and read books. That's Books and Saxophones.

    Learn/Share about "The Tree of Knowledge" artistic motif like this:

    I have a page on cake, and worshipful ceremonies related to cakes,
    and this page on cakes made to look like medieval books ties those two together!




    TV choice

    TV and unschooling

    a weird book statement