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Chapter 10: Teaching as an amusing activity (Amusing Ourselves to Death)

Chapter 10: Teaching as an amusing activity

Reading books and watching television differ completely in what they imply about learning. America is a case in point of what can be thought of as the third great crisis in Western education. The first was in fifth century B.C, when Athens transformed from an oral culture to an alphabet-writing culture.

To understand what this meant, we must read Plato. The second occurred in the sixteenth century, when Europe underwent a radical transformation as a result of the printing press. To understand what this meant, we must read John Locke. The third is happening now, in America, as a result of the electronic revolution, particularly the invention of television. To understand what this means, we must read Marshall McLuhan.

Television’s principle contribution to educational philosophy is that teaching and entertainment are intertwined. But this conception is found nowhere in original discourses, from Confucious to Plato to Cicero to Locke to Dewey. The educational literature tells us that children learn best when they are interested in what they are learning, and that reason is best cultivated when it is rooted in robust emotional ground, some have even said that learning is facilitated by a loving teacher, but no one has ever said that true learning occurs through entertainment.

Education philosophers have assumed that becoming acculturated is difficult because it necessarily involves the imposition of restraints. They have argued that there must be a sequence to learning, that perseverance and a certain measure of perspiration are indispensable, that individual pleasures must frequently be submerged in the interests of group cohesion, and that learning to be critical and to think conceptually and rigorously do not come easily to the young but are hard-fought victories. Indeed, Cicero remarked that the purpose of education is to free the student from the tyranny of the present, which cannot be pleasurable for those, like the young, who are struggling hard to do the opposite—that is, accommodate themselves to the present.

Perplexity has become a superhighway to low ratings, and a perplexed learner is one who will turn to another station. This means that nothing must be remembered or studied or even endured. It is assumed that any idea is immediately accessible, since it is the contentment of the learner, not their growth that is important.

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show BusinessChapter 10: Teaching as an amusing activity (Amusing Ourselves to Death) 1

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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