ARE TELEVISION'S EFFECTS DUE TO TELEVISION?
NEARLY ALL of the ills of our sorely afflicted society have at one time or another been blamed on television. The drop in College Entrance Examination Board scores, the decline in literacy, the lack of political involvement on the part of many citizens, the upsurge in violent crimes, the mediocre artistic tastes of large segments of our culture--these and countless other lamentable trends have all been attributed to this pervasive medium. A deluge of articles, books, and even television programs have chronicled the evil effects of television. Marie Winn has deplored The Plug-In Drug, and Gerry Mander has issued Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television.
To be sure, one occasionally hears whispers about possible dividends from television: an earlier mastery of certain basic skills (courtesy of "Sesame Street"), greater access to information by neglected pockets within the society, an increase in the rate or efficacy of visual thinking, and, possibly, the speedier erection of Marshall McLuhan's "global village." Yet for the most part, when television is spoken of, the medium that has been viewed by more individuals for longer periods of time than any other in human history receives a dismal press.
When such a consensus is voiced, it requires some boldness (or foolhardiness) to call it into question. Yet in my view we know astonishingly little about the actual effects of television. For the most part,