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Education for all

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Transfixed by the TV screen – to whose benefit?

Picture: Pavel Mylnikov

Let's look for ways to entertain ourselves beyond the TV set

A friend will ask me occasionally, “Have you seen the latest episode of…” – and then name some program. I usually answer, “You know, I haven’t watched TV for about 2 years.”

Strange, isn’t it? But actually it’s all quite simple: I find nothing interesting or noteworthy in the most well-known channels. When there’s anything educational, I can also easily find it in the Internet. And many in my generation do the same. It’s not that the Internet penetrates more and more into our lives – it’s that it substitutes many spheres of our lives that intelligent young people are not satisfied with. So what’s the connection with education here?
Television used to be (and still is) one of the most popular forms of entertainment. A kid gets home after school and may watch a cartoon before attending extra courses of after doing homework; a worker relaxes in front of a TV after a proper supper; a housewife uses it as the background noise while doing housework. But what do they see on the screen? Do they get any useful information or is it a waste of time?

Television, as part of the mass media system, has some degree of influence upon society. It can also create trends. For instance, TV is one of the most popular platforms for tobacco advertising. Clips are aimed mostly at the youth – the ads promote smoking as a way of fitting in with the smart and chic parts of society. And according to the survey conducted by World Health Organization in 2010, 25.4% of Russian youth population now use tobacco products.

Picture: Pavel Mylnikov

Parents need to make sure their kids don't become too reliant on TV

In the 20th century, TV was often used for ideological propaganda in the USSR (the group of countries that collapsed 21 year ago, and its members, including Russia, became independent states in the world) – and some elements of brainwashing seem to have been revived. For example, there’s a significant lack of educational programs as well as shows devoted to different aspects of world cultures now. Don’t these types of programs broaden your horizons and make you a well-educated person, able to form your own opinions and stand up for them? I think they do. And I also think they motivate you to learn more, to travel more – ultimately, to be more independent. But under certain political conditions, such people are not welcome since they tend to take a different view of what it means to develop a country than do the ruling authorities. To my mind, the situation in Russia has been moving in this direction for the last 8 years.

At the same time, there is too much violence or low-standard humor; at whom is it aimed, and what will it turn the viewers into? Many experts and well-known people in the cultural sphere prefer to use the web to distribute their ideas and not to lose their former audiences. Some TV versions of really great programs have been ended on the grounds that they do not get a big number of viewers – mainly because they are devoted to the topics an average man finds a bit complicated or boring. There just aren’t enough informative talk shows, for example. So that is why my generation dives into the Internet; complaining is no good, it’s time to look for alternative sources.

I don’t believe that TV should be the only source of information (and entertainment); people should take a good deal of information skeptically. And a teacher, in my opinion, is the one whose aim is not to mechanically knock knowledge into someone’s head but to teach people to be more independent. Making a mistake is not so bad if you are able to express your way of coming to the conclusion you did; following patterns in every situation blindly is much worse than a mistake here and there.


June 13, 2012 | 12:53 pm