Television's Impact on American Culture

By William Y. Elliott | Go to book overview

simplest and soundest definition of education, and this motto, alas, cannot be claimed for broadcasting. That would not in itself matter--for radio can work upon us no other way--if there were more active and apparent communal consequences to all our listening and looking. Is radio going to drive us in upon ourselves, to condition us entirely to private satisfactions? Or can its influences be applied and expressed in the enrichment of community life? That is the riddle to which no solution seems in sight.


APPENDIX F
Educational Television Suffers a Second Defeat

BY ROBERT LEWIS SHAYON

On all elementary, secondary, and college levels there is a new, vigorous campaign to get teachers to recognize and relate to the popular culture-patterns of their pupils. The whole hope of the educational TV movement (ETV), since the great crisis five years ago over the reservation of TV channels for the exclusive use of the educators, has been in the opposite direction--to supplement, to lift audiences higher than the popular culture. This hope has not been realized. The educators may argue that five years is no time at all, that the battle has just begun, the difficulties are enormous, the future is bright, etc. All this may be true, but vital cultural forces do not wait passively, like reservoirs behind dams. Teachers especially must do daily battle against commercialized popular culture; they need and seek allies badly. And nineteen out of more than 200 reserved channels in live years is a dismal record. Not a single simultaneous, national ETV program anywhere. The result is the inevitable flow of energy into the channels that are available. The teachers are entering into arms pacts with the commercial operators, to whose embrace, of course, they are lovingly welcomed.

What promise does this new entente cordiale hold for the elevation of popular taste? The reasoning of the teachers is that they will accentuate the positive (whatever there is of it on commercial TV) and de-accentuate the negative. Out of the clash will come the development of pupils' critical skills and an opportunity to lead them from the superficial on TV to the profound in literature and other arts. Will the experiment work? Will this marriage of convenience produce a new generation of mature, culturally-discriminating adults? Tune in around 1970 and find out. This is no cultural throughway the teachers have been persuaded to enter upon. Take it from Mr. Weaver, himself. With a

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Reprinted with the permission of the editor of the Saturday Review ( March 17, 1956) and the author.

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