Television: The Bane of the Literate Mind

As you have probably picked up if you are a regular reader of this blog, RiverTree School will make regular and prolific use of books in the classroom. We do this because children's minds are fed on ideas and good books are the best source of those ideas. Books also do another wonderful thing. They force a child to actively use his imagination. Anytime a child is read a story, especially a good story, his mind is actively creating his own personal mental image of the scene . It is wonderful mental exercise.
There is, however, a modern enemy of the imagination and of the intellectual and spiritual development of children that Charlotte Mason did not have to deal with: the television. In my opinion this instrument of distraction is the single greatest hindrance to the education of the child and one of the main reasons that the population of the United States has become increasingly illiterate, despite the emphasis on reading in the schools. Mark Twain's quip, "A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read", has never been so applicable as today. Children who receive a steady diet of television have their imaginations blunted by the constant barrage of imagery. This steady diet of mental junk food leaves little appetite for the comparatively challenging work and sublime pleasures of literature.
I have come to believe that in order to raise up truly well educated children it is necessary to drastically reduce the amount of time children spend in front of a screen. Therefore, at RiverTree school we are going to try something unusual. In fact, I have never heard of another school that has even attempted what we are going to do. We are going to insist that the families who make up the RiverTree community commit to each other that they will remove television, video and video games from their children's home lives. We will do this for the simple reason that it is the best thing for children.
My wife and I, about four years ago, decided to put the televisions in the closet for a month as an experiment. We did this because I came home from an education workshop having just heard a psychologist* talk about thephysiological effects that television viewing had to the cognitive development of children under eight. Suffice it to say that it wasn't good. Well, that month long experiment is still ongoing. Other than two Thanksgiving days when the TV came out for football, it has remained safely stored. I can honestly say that removing the TV was one of the best parenting decisions we have made. The kids don't miss it at all.
I have been hesitant to make this posting, even though for some time now I have known this would be a part of RiverTree, because I realize this kind of thing is not for everybody. But before you click away from this site, never to return, I would urge you to read the article: Life without TV. Notice how many different families mention how happy their children are, how much better their family life is, and how good a decision they believe removing television to have been. Then ask yourself: could we try it for a month? If your experience is at all like ours, it will be a very long and very good "month."
*I can't recall her name, but I am sure someone will remember and put it in the comments: hint, hint

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