AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH by Neil Postman (hier online bestellen)
Written in 1984, this book takes a critical view of the impact of television
on us and our culture, i.e. that of the western world, specifically that of Americans. The author, Neil Postman,
Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at New York University, says in the prologue:
When a population becomes attracted by trivia, when a cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of
entertainment, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their
public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk.
In contrast to typography (=the printed word), which dominated our thinking and life from the invention of the printing press (end of 15th century)
until the end of the 19th century, telegraphy, photography and television put an end to the people's abilty
of coherent and inferential thinking, as all the latter three media inventions thrive on incoherence, irrelevance and impotence.
The point of photography and television is to isolate images from context. The two forms of media are a world of fact, not of dispute
about facts or of conclusions to be drawn from them.
For many Americans seeing, not reading became the basis for believing. This is so disadvantageous because it lies in the nature of television/pictures
that they must suppress the content of ideas as people like to be entertained by pictures and not by complex discourse.
Postman argues that people have become so accustomed to being entertained that even otherwise 'serious' institution
have tried to accomodate people's visual and acoustic interests. Why else does a Catholic priest from Chicago mix his religious teaching
with rock 'n' roll music? Or why else do courtrooms allow TV to broadcast trials? Classrooms, boardrooms,
airplanes and all kind of churches also try to attract people by taking advantage of television. Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other.
The result is that if eg. you want to be a 'good' teacher, you'll have to be a good entertainer first in order
to be accepted by students. Knowledge and pedagogics are only of secondary importance. But education through entertainment
cannot be achieved, as it is meant to amuse, but not to have long-lasting effects on children's education.
Stories and ideas are immediately made accessible by telelearning without endurance, sequence of learning or perseverance on the child's side.
Postman accuses television as a medium that 'presents information in a form that renders it simplistic, non-substantive,
non-historical and non-contextual'.
The average teenager will have watched 16,000 hrs of television by the time he leaves high school (at the age of 17).
What negative consequences this has on people's knowledge, their ability to be critical and even on the culture of a whole
nation is what Postman wants to bring across to his readers. Say hello to the Huxleyan world...
About the author:
Postman was born and spent most of his life in New York City. In 1953, he graduated from State University of
New York at Fredonia. He received a master's degree in 1955 and a doctorate in education in 1958, both from
the Teachers College, Columbia, and started teaching at NYU in 1959.
In 1971, he founded the program in media ecology at the Steinhardt School of Education of NYU, attracting a
large audience for his lectures and writings over the years. In 1993 he was appointed a University Professor,
the only one in the School of Education, and was chairman of the department of culture and communication until
Postman wrote 17 books and more than 200 magazine and newspaper articles for such periodicals as The New York
Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Time Magazine. He was also on the editorial board of The
Perhaps his best known title is Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), in which he criticized the television
industry for confounding serious issues with entertainment. He took offense at the presentation of television
news with all the trappings of entertainment programming, including theme music and "talking hairdos." Only in
the printed word, he felt, could complicated truths be rationally conveyed. The book was translated into eight
languages and sold some 200,000 copies worldwide.
Postman died in 2003.
Extract from chapter 10: "Teaching as an Amusing Activity":
We now know that "Sesame Street" encourages children to love school only if school is like "Sesame Street".
Which is to say, we now know that "Sesame Street" undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.
Whereas a classroom is a place of social interaction, the space in front of a television set is a private preserve.
Whereas in a classroom one may ask a teacher questions, one can ask nothing of a television screen. Whereas school is
centered on the development of language, television demands attention to images. Whereas attending school
is a legal requirement, watching television is an act of choice. Whereas in school, one fails to attend to the
teacher at the risk of punishment, no penalties exist for failing to attend to the television screen. Whereas to
behave oneself in school means to observe rules of public decorum, television watching requires no such
observances, has no concept of public decorum. Whereas in a classroom, fun is never more than a means to an end, on
television it is the end in itself.
Amusing Ourselves to Death
Taschenbuch - 184 Seiten - Penguin Books
Erscheinungsdatum: 1. November 1986
Preis: € 12,97
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