What? No TV!
by Joy Jones
How would it feel to go four
days without the television or the computer? Would you
feel desperate or would it make you free? My seventh and
eighth graders could tell you how it felt, since that is
the assignment I gave them.
They cried, they screamed, they called me mean and
unreasonable. But I didn't do it to torture them. My
intent wasn't diabolical, it was meant to be
inspirational. I teach creative writing and before the
term was over, my students had to write a play. As
someone who has written plays, stories and other
creative pieces, I know that turning off the television
helps the creative juices to flow. Not only does it stop
a lot of distractions, it opens a creative space that is
good for the imagination to flourish. My hope was that
if they abstained from the grip of electronic
entertainment, they'd have the same experience. Not only
did I ask them to go without television, but I asked
that they abstain for at least four days in a row from
TV, video rentals and the Internet. Reading e-mails,
seeing a movie at a theater, or using the computer for
homework was permitted. Parents were asked to sign a log
verifying that each student actually abstained.
And for many of them it did generate positive activity.
Some students told me that they spent more time working
on their stories or getting homework done more quickly.
Others played out-side or practiced their guitar or
piano more. It was what I wanted to happen, yet I have
to admit I was surprised when they complied and
recounted the increase of their own creativity. The
generation gap asserted itself with this assignment.
Several students reported that they found for-going
television fairly easy, it was saying no to the computer
that was hard. It surprised me that young people are
more mesmerized by PC's than TV's even though I know
this is the digital age.
I was really surprised by what happened at the end of
the term. I typically ask students to give me a 'report
card', to fill out a questionnaire rating the class. To
the question, "What assignment was most interesting or
helpful?", more students described the No TV assignment,
even though by semester's end that assignment was months
in the past and they had moaned bitterly about having to
do it. Evidently, even rebellious, contrary adolescents
could appreciate the power, peace and pleasure of a life
with less television.
You should try it with your class and see what the
results are. Better yet, you should try it yourself.