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The third great crisis in western education in neil postmans television as teacher

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right. The Medium Is the Metaphor …economics is less a science than a performing art. The emergency of the image-manager in the political arena and the concomitant decline of the speech writer attest to the fact that television demands a different kind of content from other media. You cannot do political philosophy on television. Its form works against the content. This change-over has dramatically and irreversibly shifted the content and meaning of public discourse, since two media so vastly different cannot accommodate the same ideas.

As the influence of print wanes, the content of politics, religion, education, and anything else that comprises public business must change and be recast in terms that are most suitable to television.

Instead of dealing with the things themselves man is in a sense constantly conversing with himself. He has so enveloped himself in linguistic forms, in artistic images, in mythical symbols or religious rites that he cannot see or know anything except by the interposition of [an] artificial medium.

In the process, we have learned irreverence toward the sun and the seasons, for in a world made up of seconds and minutes, the authority of nature is superseded.

Perhaps Moses should have included another Commandment: Thou shalt not make mechanical representations of time. Nonetheless, it is clear that phonetic writing created a new conception of knowledge, as well as a new sense of intelligence, of audience and of posterity… 12 No man of intelligence will venture to express his philosophical views in language, especially not in language that is unchangeable, which is true of that which is set down in written characters.

Writing freezes speech and in so doing gives birth to the grammarian, the logician, the rhetorician, the historian, the scientists — all those who must hold language before them so that thy can see what it means, where it errs, and where it is leading. Our media are our metaphors.

An Aurora Update

Our metaphors create the content of our culture. Media as Epistemology It is my intention in this book to show that a great media-metaphor shift has taken place in America, with the result that the content of much of our public discourse has become dangerous nonsense.

With this in view, my task in the chapters ahead is straightforward. I must, first, demonstrate how, under the governance of the printing press, discourse in America was different from what it is now — generally coherent, serious and rational; and then how, under the governance of television, it has become shriveled and absurd.

In the academic world, the published word is invested with greater prestige and authenticity than the spoken word. Truth does not, and never has, come unadorned. In a purely oral culture, intelligence is often associated with aphoristic ingenuity, that is, the power to invent compact sayings of wide applicability.

The wise Solomon, we are told in First Kings, knew three thousand proverbs. In a print culture, people with such a talent are thought to be quaint at best, more likely pompous bores. In a purely oral culture, a high value is always placed on the power to memorize, for where there are no written books, the human mind must function as a mobile library. To forget how something is to be said or done is a danger to the community and a gross form of stupidity.

1. The Medium Is the Metaphor

It is almost always functionally irrelevant and certainly not considered a sign of high intelligence. Although the general character of print-intelligence would be known to anyone who would be reading this book, you may arrive at a reasonably detailed definition of it by simply considering what is demanded of you as you read this book. You are required, first of all, to remain more or less immobile for a fairly long time. If you cannot do this with this or any other bookour culture may label you as anything from hyperkinetic to undisciplined; in any case, as suffering from some sort of intellectual deficiency.

The printing press makes rather stringent demands on our bodies as well as our minds. Controlling your body is, however, only a minimal requirement. You must also have learned to pay no attention to the shapes of the letters on the page.

You must see through them, so to speak, so that you can go directly to the meanings of the words they form. If you are preoccupied with the shapes of the letters, you will be an intolerably inefficient reader, likely to be thought stupid. If you have learned how to get to meanings without aesthetic distraction, you are required to assume an attitude of detachment and objectivity. You must, in other words, know the difference between a joke and an argument.

  • I think they're wrong;
  • In the process, we have learned irreverence toward the sun and the seasons, for in a world made up of seconds and minutes, the authority of nature is superseded.

And in judging the quality of an argument, you must be able to do several things at once, including delaying a verdict until the entire argument is finished, holding in mind questions until you have determined where, when or if the text answers them, and bringing to bear on the text all of your relevant experience as a counterargument to what is being proposed.

You must also be able to withhold those parts of your knowledge and experience which, in fact, do not have a bearing on the argument. And in preparing yourself to do all of this, you must have divested yourself of the belief that words are magical and, above all, have learned to negotiate the world of abstractions, for there are very few phrases and sentences in this book that require you to call forth concrete images.

In subsequent chapters, I want to show that in the twentieth century, our notions of truth and our ideas of intelligence have changed as a result of new media displacing the old.

Tv education essay

I will say once again that I am no relativist in this matter, and that I believe the epistemology created by television not only is inferior to a print-based epistemology but is dangerous and absurdist. A river that has slowly been polluted suddenly becomes toxic; most of the fish perish; swimming becomes a danger to health.

But even then, the river may look the same and one may still take a boat ride on it. In other word, even when life has been taken from it, the river does not disappear, nor do all of its uses, but its value has been seriously diminished and its degraded condition will have harmful effects throughout the landscape. It is this way with our symbolic environment.

Typography created prose but made poetry into an exotic and elitist form of expression. Typography made modern science possible but transformed religious sensibility into mere superstition. Typography assisted in the growth of the nation-state but thereby made patriotism into a sordid if not lethal emotion. This situation was only in part a legacy of the Protestant tradition.

As Richard Hofstadter reminds us, America was founded by intellectuals, a rare occurrence in the history of modern nations. What kind of audience was this? Is there any audience of Americans today who could endure seven hours of talk?

Especially without pictures of any kind? Second, these audiences must have had an equally extraordinary capacity to comprehend lengthy and complex sentences aurally. What is the character of its content?

What does it demand of the public? What uses of the mind does it favor? Though one may accomplish it from time to time, it is very hard to say nothing when employing a written English sentence.

The third great crisis in western education in neil postmans television as teacher

What else is exposition good for? Words have very little to recommend them except as carriers of meaning. The shapes of written words are not especially interesting to look at. Even the sounds of sentences of spoken words are rarely engaging except when composed by those with extraordinary poetic gifts. If a sentence refuses to issue forth a fact, a request, a question, an assertion, an explanation, it is nonsense, a mere grammatical shell. It is no accident that the Age of Reason was coexistent with the growth of a print culture, first in Europe and then in America.

The Presbyterians founded, among other schools, the University of Tennessee in 1784, Washington and Jefferson in 1802 and Lafayette in 1826. The Episcopalians founded Hobart 122Trinity 123 and Kenyon 1824.

Amusing Ourselves to Death | Notes & Review

The Methodists founded eight colleges between 1830 and 1851, including Wesleyan, Emory, and Depauw. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, religious thought and institutions in America were dominated by an austere, learned, and intellectual form of discourse that is largely absent from religious life today.

A lawyer needed to be a writing and reading man par excellence, for reason was the principal authority upon which legal questions were to be decided. It was said of him that he never used analogy as a principal support of his arguments. Of words, almost nothing will come to mind. Exposition is a mode of thought, a method of learning, and a means of expression.

Its replacement was to be the Age of Show Business. The Peek-a-Boo World The new idea was that transportation and communication could be disengaged from each other, that space was not an inevitable constraint on the movement of information. He grasped that the telegraph would create its own definition of discourse; that it would not only permit but insist upon a conversation between Maine and Texas; and that it would require the content of that conversation to be different from what Typographic Man was accustomed to.

These demons of discourse were aroused by the fact that telegraphy gave a form of legitimacy to the idea of context-free information; that is, to the idea that the value of information need not be tied to any function it might serve in social and political decision-making and action, but may attach merely to its novelty, interest, and curiosity. This is indeed the annihilation of space. This fact is the principal legacy of the telegraph: But this was not all: Telegraphy also made public discourse essentially incoherent.

The principal strength of the telegraph was its capacity to move information, not collect it, explain it or analyze it.

  • What will be fifty years after that is very murky;
  • As one of my favorite authors, Postman amazes me in that two years shy of being two decades old, the insights and prophecies of this critique have made their fulfillment, and have set the groundwork for understanding the digital age cf;
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The telegraph is suited only to the flashing of messages, each to be quickly replaced by a more up-to-date message. Facts push other facts into and then out of consciousness at speeds that neither permit nor require evaluation. Its language was the language of headlines — sensational, fragmented, impersonal.

In fact, the point of photography is to isolate images from context. This means, among other things, that we rarely talk about television, only about what is on television — that is, about its content.

This, in turn, means that its epistemology goes largely unnoticed. The Age of Show Business This is one use of television — as a source of illuminating the printed page. To make such a mistake in the matter at hand is to misconstrue entirely how television redefines the meaning of public discourse. Television does not extend or amplify literate culture.

Like the brain, a technology is a physical apparatus. Like the mind, a medium is a use to which a physical apparatus is put.

Our television set keeps us in constant communication with the world, but it does so with a face whose smiling countenance is unalterable. To say it still another way: As such, it serves as a compact metaphor for the discontinuities in so much that passes for public discourse in present-day America. The credibility of the teller is the ultimate test of the truth of a proposition. While brevity does not always suggest triviality, in this case it clearly does.

In aesthetics, I believe the name given to this theory is Dadaism; in philosophy, nihilism; in psychiatry, schizophrenia.