Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fighting back

What a welcome change to read a column by someone taking it to another emerging army of alarmists - the anti-TV terrorisers.

A blind moral panic about television and other electronic media hinders children's potential to realise literary futures that are different from the past.

Why are we such snobs about children watching television?

Anne-Marie Quill has said everything - and more - that ran through my mind last week when I read about 'experts' warning parents not to let under 4s watch any TV whatsoever. Unlike Ms Quill I couldn't find the energy to refute this absurdity so opted to do the next best thing and ignore them (which is incidentally how I advise my children to deal with bullies).

The warning came around the same time that I took my 11 year-old daughter and other team members over to Seatoun school to compete in the annual KidsLit competition. The children first compete to be in the school team, and the winners then square off in the Wellington area rounds. Ultimately a NZ team will compete internationally in Edinburgh.

The competition comprises 10 rounds of 10 questions, with each round covering a particular subject. That was first up was American literature. And a typical question would be, What was the family surname of the girls in Little Women? The children work as a team and eventually the highest score wins. But along the way there are chances to win books and money! The quizz master, in his tall hat, who is completely nuts about the concept, really brought the show alive. There was even a question and prize for the adults at the end of each round. So rather than just being spectators we were participating.

As I listened it occurred to me that the line between books and tv is now very blurred. So many books have become movies and with the advent of video/DVD our children are familiar with far more fiction than they would otherwise have been. That is not to say that these kids aren't readers. They are. And it does my heart good to see their passion for reading being recognised and rewarded. I particularly welled-up with pride and emotion when one of the end-of-round money questions began, I am going to read to you the first lines from a book and if you can identify the book, hand up quick as you can, "This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child..." and up shot Sam's hand. The audience and the quizz master gasped. "The Magician's Nephew?" she ventured. "Correct!" to much applause and the reward of a $5 note. (The book pictured here was mine as a 7 year-old hence its somewhat tatty state.)

Of course the Narnia books have variously been turned into TV series' and films many times. There was a BBC TV series made when I was a child. I loved to do both; read the books and watch the screen. And that was in the 1960s.

These experts who warn against TV viewing must have stale and unimaginative lives. Perhaps they spend all their time exercising their precious bodies and believe that, for their own betterment, every other individual should be doing the same.

But what about the life of the mind? Frankly they can naff off and more people should join with Anne-marie Quill in telling them to.


Anonymous said...

I was 12 when television was introduced into NZ back in the sixties. It was only broadcast a couple of hours a night 3 nights a week. But slowly the content time filled up and became more user friendly. programes were british and american. I watched everything.
Gave up my life to the box. Never went out, never played sport, just watched endless hours of black and white pictues flickering across my mind. i loved it. TV enriched my life and gave me the immagination to go off and do weird stuff that many of my conservative friends would only shake their heads at.
These days I never watch TV except when I'm putting a DVD into the machine and I catch a glimpse in passing.
People who become zombies are destined to become zombies and i dont believe TV has much to do with it.


Shane Pleasance said...

How long before TV is banned? No, really. Come on, pick a year...

On a slightly different tack, I make it a policy to change channel should a patronising, shocking or crap government tv ad come on. The intersection wheel, the smoking ones, all of 'em...

Enjoy the news tv stations - I hope you all follow suit.