This has been a great week! On Monday I shared one of my Patreon posts, Reality TV Mattered, And We Should Have Realized It, and it’s gotten a pretty good response. In the piece, I talked about the role critical thinking plays in dealing with the barrage of information we’re being inundated with. Sherry Kappel shared some of her experiences teaching college students.
Ohhh boy. You touch on numerous topics near and dear to me.
When I taught freshman English to college kids almost 30 years ago, it was “level 2” — my students were already proficient at spelling, grammar, etc. — so the focus was on content. While they were used to reciting things like “who is the main character,” I taught them to look for the author’s underlying goals, who their target audience was, how that would affect what they wrote, and more.
I (and my fellow TA’s) taught the kids to think critically for the first time in their lives, and it was a major eye opener for them. They’d start each semester thinking that anything in the news and text books was pure “fact,” and end by analyzing everything, trusting few. I was very grateful to be part of a program that taught what may be the single most important thing these students learned in college. Sadly, however, I don’t think that’s happening in most settings (home or education) and most kids are never exposed to it unless — perhaps — they go to grad school. Likewise, when one thinks that way, things aren’t “opinions” so much as “right” or “wrong.” (You can see where that’s a problem in our current political atmosphere.)
So if kids are being taught by those in positions of authority to blindly accept what they’re told, then it only stands to figure that they can’t sort out fantasy from reality and “reality TV” only makes it worse. I’m not much of a TV watcher and have never been interested in reality TV, but it’s been interesting — and horrifying — to watch as a cultural phenomenon. I remember a woman I know posting something that was demonstrably false on Facebook, so I responded with the Snopes link. Her reply? “That’s okay, because it could be true (emphasis mine). What even is that — the Twilight Zone???
The more insidious piece of all of this is that when politicians and the other powers-that-be downplay public education as they have been more and more, a big part of their goal is to ensure that the masses remain unable to figure any of this out. It’s large-scale brainwashing to ensure that nobody challenges the one percenters, white supremacy, etc. and the overall power structure. Some of the media is complicit, while others are too busy competing with reality TV and our lack of attention span to produce deep, thoughtful content. Either way, the American public loses.
Looking back, I can see how valuable having received a quality liberal arts college education then going on to graduate and professional school was. I was taught to think critically. I was taught to be sceptical. I was taught to question. Most importantly, I was given the tools to do these things responsibly. I was taught to evaluate sources and question authors’ motives, but there were always a set of facts that everyone agreed upon. Like the Earth not being flat. There is an assault on reason taking place, and emotionalism, contrariness, and superiority complexes have rushed in to fill the void.
Most people don’t have the opportunities I did, though. Higher education has priced out anyone who isn’t willing to accrue massive amounts of debt. NYU recently announced it was making its med school tuition free, so maybe other programs will follow suit. That will be a long, slow turn, though. I’m honestly not sure what’s going to be done in the meantime. It will take at least a generation to repair the damage that’s been done. And with so many young people worshipping at the altar of Silicon Valley tech bros who don’t understand civics or ethics, I’m honestly not optimistic. I worry because what we’re dealing with is more than anti-intellectualism. There’s real nihilism at work. And cruelty. “Losers” have to suffer and be humiliated.
I didn’t get how powerful reality TV was until Trump ran. But as soon as his poll numbers stuck, I knew, and I understood that he could win. It was a pretty horrifying wakeup call…
Um A'yube wrote in:
I’m from the UK and I gave up on Big Brother after the second series. Didn’t even manage to get to The Osbornes saw clips of.c. I always found Wife Swap fascinating, and the Nanny one! lol. But now I have children I look back on that different.
First two BB were gripping, although I didn’t have a TV at the time, but I would see it on friends TV’s.
I lost the taste for “reality” TV like you and I just stopped watching… and I agree with you Pandora’s box has been opened.
I was visiting the UK during the early Big Brother days. (It was the summer that season with Jade aired.) I think that’s when I really, really realized just how popular the format was. There was a recap show called Big Brother’s Little Brother, and a channel that showed the inside of the house 24 hours a day! Some people were so addicted to the show that they slept only after every castmate went to bed. I should have seen that, yes, someone who commanded that kind of attention and who had the right profile could rise to power.
I write a lot about Colin Kaepernick, and as most of you’ve probably heard, he had a pretty big win this week. The arbitrator in his case denied the NFL’s request for summary judgment, so the case is moving forward! I wrote an absolute gloatfest that I’m not the least bit ashamed of.
Jonathan Greene responded:
It has always been so obvious that it’s almost ridiculous for anyone to suggest otherwise. With Kaep’s skills on the decline when his ban started, there was at least an argument to make about that, but never that he couldn’t be a 2nd or 3rd string QB somewhere. But then with Eric Reid, it became a slam dunk. All-Pro, top of his game, and no suitors. It is the most ludicrous thing I have seen in sports along with any negativity toward kneeling.
I am continually flabbergasted that all players don’t stand behind Kaep and Eric Reid. The league, as a whole, thought they were above one person and now their time has come to answer. Whether Kaep wins his case or not, things are going to come out that are going to put a lot of rich white men in jeopardy, in addition to the league.
I love sports, but this is the first year I am uninterested in the NFL since I was like 4 years old. I cancelled my Red Zone subscription because of this and maybe that’s nothing, but it’s something for me to not spend time supporting a sport that is so against its own players’ rights to kneel and speak freely against things that really matter.
I honestly do not understand what the NFL was playing at when they let this case go forward. Especially after Eric Reid became part of the story. The longer this drags on, the more likely it is that bad things are going to come out. Some of the NFL communication about Kaepernick was a racist mess (one of his lawyers alluded to it in an interview). Now that there’s blood in the water, the chances that someone rolls the dice and takes TMZ’s money to expose it are much higher.
And people are sleeping on what’s happening with the Madden NFL story. It shows that the knives were out for Kaepernick as soon as his protest started. I’m working on a follow-up to the piece I wrote about it that I hope will be up next week. If you missed it, check out the details. They’re bad. And it gets worse.
Trying to Erase Colin Kaepernick from Madden NFL Could Turn into the NFL’s Chernobyl
Do you ever notice that there are certain people who never say Colin Kaepernick’s name? They talk around him. They talk…
The players who haven’t supported Kaepernick are going to have to live with that shame for the rest of their lives. It’s something that will make their kids look at them differently when they’re old enough to understand.
Of the strength of Kaepernick’s case, Sherry Kappel wrote simply:
I never doubted it — and I look forward to the take-down.