Neil Postman and Jerry Mander have said that educational TV is a fraud for decades — what you learn watching television is how to watch television. Period.

The conceit of “educational TV” is the same one that sells “eat all you like” diet books and “think yourself rich” plans to fools: the idea of something for nothing (someone else, smarter than you, will handle raising your kids — just pop in the video).

You learn to be human by interacting with humans, not appliances.

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Madison Ave, ever alert to anything that would challenge its reign, constantly lampoons anyone who questions or dares notice the deleterious effects of TV — even as we are drowning in the negative consequences: children who think food tastes better in McDonalds’ wrappers, obesity, skyrocketing attention deficit-disorders, and, everywhere, exploding exploitation of children by marketers. The parents buy “Baby Mozart” DVDs and mini-vans with DVD players, and astonishing numbers of recorded movies for their kids. (We have recently had an unparalleled chance to see what upscale parenting looks like while we tour houses for sale: apparently it involves shelf after shelf of recorded movies. Books — hmm, not so much.)

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My theory is that one significant contributing cause to the debased politics we suffer today is that politics is, in the main, now dominated by people who grew up entirely in a TV-mediated world. These are people whose idea of sustained attention is a movie that goes a full two hours. They have been told millions of times (literally) that there is no problem that can’t be fixed by buying the right product, and the only unthinkable thing is not buying anything at all.

From Time magazine, “Baby Einsteins: Not So Smart After All“:

Led by Frederick Zimmerman and Dr. Dimitri Christakis, both at the University of Washington, [a] research team found that with every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos. These products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies 8 to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form. “The more videos they watched, the fewer words they knew,” says Christakis. “These babies scored about 10% lower on language skills than infants who had not watched these videos.”

It’s not the first blow to baby videos, and likely won’t be the last. Mounting evidence suggests that passive screen sucking not only doesn’t help children learn, but could also set back their development. Last spring, Christakis and his colleagues found that by three months, 40% of babies are regular viewers of DVDs, videos or television; by the time they are two years old, almost 90% are spending two to three hours each day in front of a screen. Three studies have shown that watching television, even if it includes educational programming such as Sesame Street, delays language development …

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