Thursday, March 09, 2006

Is Television The Enemy Of Formal Education?

I once worked with a science teacher whose car sported a bumper sticker advising folks to "Kill Your TV."

While I think that Mr. Science's advice was a little extreme, here's an article from Arizona that supports what many teachers have known for years: Turning off the television
is beneficial to kids:
When Ret. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman spoke to teachers on March 1 about the impact large doses of violent visual media has on youth, he ended his seminar with a case study that was hard to ignore.

Stanford University Medical School recently conducted a study showing the detrimental effects of violent visual media - namely televisions, movies and video games - has on left brain activity in children. The study showed that children who are exposed large amounts of visual media lose nearly all of their left brain activity. The left brain provides reason, logic and impulse control to humans.

School district officials in Escanaba, Mich., were so moved by the Stanford study that they held community meetings to elicit the support of parents in turning off their televisions for 10 days. The experiment began in one elementary school in the district and has since been implemented throughout the district, Grossman said.

"The parents said the first few days while their kids were 'in detox' were horrible," he said. "After that, however, the kids found other things to do."

Grossman said it is good for kids to be bored sometimes because it makes them find creative ways to entertain themselves.

During this period, local organizations also aided the efforts of the school districts. The local YMCA gave free 10-day memberships, and the same organization saw record numbers of new memberships after the free period, Grossman said.

The library in Escanaba also had a sign-up drive, and bowling alleys and skating rinks saw record numbers.

"The school district in Escanaba had a 90-percent compliance with their TV turn-off challenge," Grossman said. "The school saw an 80-percent reduction in violence in the schoolyard and cafeteria - and that was just the beginning."

The school also saw a rise in attendance during that time because many children who are engaged by violent visual media for extended periods of time are sleep deprived.

"The students were able to get up and get to school, and they weren't so afraid of being bullied when they go there because the bullying had reduced," Grossman said. "Also, the kids were bored, so school became interesting to them."

Another side affect of the TV turn-off challenge was a reduction in the number of bladder infections for girls.

"Think about it - where is the one unsupervised area of the school?" Grossman said. "It's the bathroom. So many little girls were afraid to go to the bathroom, so they were holding it in and giving themselves infections."

The Escanaba School District deliberately held its TV turn-off challenge the week prior to conducting Michigan standardized tests. The scores of those tests showed a 12-percent increase in the writing scores and a 14-percent increase in reading scores.

Escanaba's study was so successful, the community received a federal grant to be the national distributor of the idea.

"For copyright purposes, each school district has to buy one copy of the original Stanford study," Grossman said. "After that, everything else is free because schools can copy the Escanaba curriculum."

The Escanaba School District hosts an annual seminar to teach its curriculum to other school districts, and Grossman encourages teachers and administrators to find a way to attend.

"Education is the only transformational tool available to our society," Grossman said. "This is our children's lives at stake; it's worth our passion."

Graham County School Superintendent Donna McGaughey said she has purchased Grossman's book, "Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill" for the teachers to have in their professional library. She is also meeting with the school superintendents to dicuss options and and ideas for pursuing a similar curriculum.

For more information about Grossman visit, and for more information about the impact of visual media on children visit
There's one thing that I'll buy about this story 100%. A majority of my junior high school students aren't getting enough sleep. Earlier in the year, I asked them what they were doing staying-up so late on school nights. The overwhelming majority answered: Watching television.
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