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I bet it was Sesame Street that turned me into a damn liberal atheist.

A study by video haters of America. These video's are like mobiles that have long been thought to give babies a more stimulating environment. They don't make your kid a genius. If some parents are thinking they can use this rather than actually interact with their children then there is the problem.

This screams to me as Luddite technological prejudices. There are positive and negative effects to videos, TV, internet, and video games. None actually rot our minds, despite what the fuddy-duddies may say.

This screams to me as Luddite technological prejudices. There are positive and negative effects to videos, TV, internet, and video games. None actually rot our minds, despite what the fuddy-duddies may say.

I don't know how old you are or how many small children you have had a significant hand in raising, but with respect to preschool kids, I beg to differ. Both my kids and all three grandkids went to kindergarten already reading. The big secret? Read to them and sometime in the 3-4 year old range start pointing out words, etc.

Today I had a discussion with my grad student (the grader) who thought I was expecting too much of my class (a graduate spectroscopy class) to think that they'll already know how to compute the isotopic composition of molecules, given the isotopic natural abundances. (Not a hard problem, e.g., what fraction of [Mo(CN)8]3- molecules have exactly one 13C atom given that the abundance of 13C is 1.07%.) Except that the individual outcome probabilities are not 50%, it is the same calculation I learned as a kid, playing Monopoly and figuring out the probability that I would land on the Orange Monopoly starting from Jail. (Obviously, this can be built into video games - but are the most popular games doing that?)

Kids are tactile and they like real live people to interact with. Books and board games are great because they they're interacting with you - their parent - who they adore (at least until they're 14 or so).

I am 31 and have no Children, Tim.

I also don't see a big difference between what you are saying and what I am. Human interaction is best for learning. Reading is perhaps second. Then activities that have some interaction with kids are third including games and the internet etc. Then TV with educational content and then lastly TV without educational content.

And somewhere in there is play without structure or media input. Hard to argue that a kid watching a video is somehow worse off than a kid sitting in a crib staring at the ceiling. I think the lesson here is that you should always trade up with your kid and not let the convenience of video tools help you trade down.

As the son of two working parents with both an attention span deficit and a real interest in technology since a very early age, TV and video games were a significant amount of my time growing up. At times, way too much of my time.

That said, I know people that grew up banned from all non PBS programming and encouraged to read a great deal(I also read between video sessions).

I routinely beat out such folks at general knowledge tests. In part because my father was always sharing science and history with us and inspired an interest.

I also learned a great deal of things from TV and video games. History, mechanics, mythology, science of all kinds. Despite having no computer in my home until after I graduated from college and going to a HS that only had Apple IIE's I am very comfortable working with and understanding the inner workings of my computer.

I credit a lot of that with the ease of learning from video input and the extent to witch you can pick up latent information from the passive media.

Both your student and I are just stories and not a relevant study. Perhaps your student is the type of person that never would have made it to grad school 30 years ago but now feels compelled as there are few other ways to make the income he desires and encountered less obstacles along the way in a educational system so concerned about collecting tuition. Maybe I am the rare person that learns visually and excels in a video based world.

I also think that the advancement of science and growing social conscience of younger generations are evidence that the video age hasn't brought learning to a screeching halt.

I probably didn't take proper account of your proviso in your initial comment (If some parents are thinking they can use this rather than actually interact with their children then there is the problem.)

One thing though, this phrase "...growing social conscience of younger generations..." makes me wonder. I mean, I hope it's accurate, but there was a time when I heard people say the same thing about people my age. Then I turn around twenty-five years later and I see Zaphod chewing out leftbanker with a comment like this:

Let's be clear: YOUR generation fucked this up, and MY generation (largest libertarian population in history) is going to fix this. Its bad enough cleaning your mess, please don't spit on me as I do it.

... and I have to laugh and cringe at the same time. Generational generalizations are not a useful explanatory or predictive tool, in my opinion. I hope this time it works out!

I still don't get that comment from Zaphod. It makes it sound like he's 16 and unable to have a say in government (or like the 18-year olds who were drafted during Vietnam but weren't old enough to vote) but he's been voting for around 10 years. Maybe I missed the point.

Ah, libertarians are true believers in their philosophy. They preach laissez faire to anyone who will listen; I've heard it done on a plane and elsewhere. The fervor of this philosophy is what I think drove Zap to write that. Then there are neo-cons who claim they are libertarians but will happy to tap into your personal life via the phone system, etc. I prefer Zaphod's style to that at least.

My ears are burning.

Why is it the only comments that get attention around here are the ones I regret making?

I have a vote, but given the fringe nature of my beliefs, it doesn't do me much good. I understand where Obama is coming from- inflating us back to 2003 numbers is his only chance at re-election, but damn it- it makes me angry.

Back to the topic at hand-

I'm 28, about to be married. I attended a Montessouri school until 3rd grade, and was reading the Chicago Tribune fluently by then. My mother read to me until I was able to read to her, and the only media I was allowed was PBS (Mr. Rogers, Seasame Street) and radio (mostly NPR).

My brother is a decade younger- raised on "Barney the Dinosaur" and "Power Rangers". He's not dumb- he's rather bright actually- but his language skills are not nearly as strong as mine. In an attempt to quantify this, his IQ is about 30% lower than mine.

To be clear: I am NOT arguing that "Barney" makes people dumb. I am arguing that people are born dumb, and unless forced to learn, they will not bother to. I do not believe IQ is innate or purely genetic- my IQ was a gift from those who cared enough to raise me as a reader and thinker.

What makes me especially sad/mad here is that I don't have kids, but want them. Meanwhile, the octo-mom litter is watching Sponge Bob.

If you want to break me of my anti-state libertarian attitude, propose a law regulating who will be allowed breed. I fear my misanthropic streak may outweigh my idealistic love of liberty at this point.

I think as long as TV or video games aren't a babysitter substitute, they can be OK. Parenting includes getting the kids on to other things.

That being said, i don't see much use for much air time for kids 2 and under. 2 spoons and a sand box will get them farther along.

I would argue video games, specifically puzzle games, or any sort of RPG with problem-solving/riddle elements, is actually BETTER than TV. It requires feedback, and has unlimited patience for inevitable mistakes. I think the future of education lies in interactive multimedia.

That said, a game like "Mario Bros" is probably equivalent to "ALF" in terms of brain-stimulation.

That said, Seasame Street taught me more Spanish than 5 years of classes did, so clearly, not all media is equal.

If you have a few minutes to kill, and want a better example, check this out:

http://www.kongregate.com/games/Scarybug/chronotron

The game is based on very simple puzzles, with a twist- to win you must "think 4th dimensionally".

This game is a fantastic excuse to stretch some abstract thinking muscles. Much like a Vonnegut or Douglas Adams novel, but with a clear objective, and a specific solution.

The future programmers and logistics managers of our world will need the skills taught by this game (just to name a few). If they can learn while playing, all the better.

Disclaimer: that does not mean HALO is educational. In the interest of fairness, neither was WOLFENSTEIN 3D.

If I didn't just get done with a lengthy proposal, I'd check out your link. For what it's worth, your posts are making my smile.

For your prior reply, I hope that you didn't take it that I was implying you had no intellect. I think it's clear that you do. But almost every Libertarian I've run into will talk my (or someone else's) ear off about the philosophy. Heym if you can keep Ayn Rand out of it, I'll be more likely to listen! ;~)

Anyhoo - you are a Montessori grad. Undoubtedly you had quite a regimen of tactile learning. Did your brother receive nothing like it? I'd also like you to reconsider your outlook that we're born "dumb." That word seems to imply inability to process ideas. I feel we're more a blank slate - well, a sponge actually,* and that we absorb what we are presented with.

I would support that a marriage license require at least as much study as a drivers license. And having kids - don't get me started! I think Sweden does a good job with that one.

*hell, that's our original ancestor!

Like Zaph is saying there are a number of benefits to video games. I remember seeing a study that showed that the mental mapping skills used in many games reduces risk for a number of types dementia.

I don't know of a lot of studies showing the benefits of TV but I am still fairly certain there are some.

Tim, I think you have a point. I guess I would call the increase of political acumen amongst the youth as not really an increase in youth intelligence but rather the expiration of several prejudices that the current power elite have seemed to distracted by profit to renew. Racism Sexism are fading and the once hated socialism is now almost an option in may peoples mind.

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/just_53_say_capitalism_better_than_socialism

Sell one to many Che t-shirts and suddenly Americans don't hide under their desk every time someone proposes that capitalism isn't the perfect system.

My point earlier was to say that I don't think there are any real signs that people are getting dumber.
In fact more people have access to information and although not all have become stellar grad students many are more involved in their society then they could have been a few decades ago.

My point earlier was to say that I don't think there are any real signs that people are getting dumber.

Probably true, but perhaps with a rise in population, the sheer numbers of dim lights is larger. Still, read on...

In fact more people have access to information and although not all have become stellar grad students many are more involved in their society [than] they could have been a few decades ago.

Yup, it's much more easy to access information. It's also expected that one attend at least some college after high school, or that college is necessary for career success. I had that conversation revolving around the K-16 educational system, only this time it was the other person who brought that up.

I'd like society to back up this one way: make it OK again NOT to attend college. Insist that primary and secondary ed. provide a good education - as in one that does not concentrate on kids memorizing the right answers. There's been a brain drain in a lot of fields that generally don't require college: farming, mechanics, plumbing - need I say more? These are all honorable, decent paying, necessary occupations where the workers need both brains and hands-on experience, not some corporate mogul directing traffic.

Oi. It's late and I'm rambling. Efficiency in writing deteriorating. ciao--

Clearly my video upbringing has a negative effect on my word usage.

Sorry - late night grammar nazi behavior while quoting. There should be a penalty for that.

Its the only way I will ever learn.

There was a lot of excitement when tests came out showing videogames did bring out a new kind of thinking and problem solving(instead of always hearing how it encouraged violence). The gamers I worked with were generally pretty sharp although, they were often in bad shape (encouraged by gaming companies giving testers and others free soda, M&Ms and even pizza to keep them testing the betas longer.) TV - I don't know. There was a Third Rock from the Sun where one of them had discovered TV and said "I haven't had a thought in my head for four hours" and, as a TV addict, I feel pretty free to say - for the most part - probably true. I think I also read you burn less calories watching TV than you do just sitting there which probably tells a lot about what's going on with the rest of your body.

I love that game, Zaphod.

My wife and I limited our son's TV watching to a minimum and it was the best decision we ever made in raising our son. Saturday and Sunday mornings he runs into the playroom and builds or makes crafts, not to watch tv. He does things in the evening with me, not watches things. It's great. He watches the odd video, but he rarely asks to. My wife and I didn't want to surrender him to commercial interests to let them mould his mind. We did it by talking to him, reading to him and taking him places and giving him creative toys to play with. My mother taught elementary school for 40 years and lamented the advent of Sesame Street and the like and their short 1 to 3 minute segments as destroying children's attention span. My motto is "Life is just too wonderful to spend it watching a piece of furniture."

Replying down here to make things easier to read:

@gypsy sister wrote:

Anyhoo - you are a Montessori grad. Undoubtedly you had quite a regimen of tactile learning. Did your brother receive nothing like it?

Sadly, he did not. He got a public education in one of the best-funded schools in the USA (Long Island), but despite this funding, it simply does not compare to a hands-on, small class environment.

I'd also like you to reconsider your outlook that we're born "dumb." That word seems to imply inability to process ideas. I feel we're more a blank slate - well, a sponge actually,* and that we absorb what we are presented with.

That is more accurate- not "born dumb", but "born blank". The greater point is that I reject notions that intelligence is somehow racial or socio-economic.

Re: annoying libertarians, quick story:

My next door neighbor is a hardcore Paulian, fan of the "Turner Diaries" and well versed in right-wing Conspiracy theory (as am I). I had assumed we would be fast friends- like Hank Hill and Dale Gribble sharing a beer in the alley.

The irony here- this guy is 25, still living at home with his parents, still trying to get into a career of some sort so he can leave the nest.

He NEVER misses an opportunity to tell me how much he hates "those people" who refuse to contribute, and survive on public services. He hates those "leeches on society", and doesn't seem to see the irony here.

Although I am with him in spirit to some degree, I have to think his existence doesn't help the greater cause of libertarianism.

When I tell you that I believe a man must make his own way, I speak from the heart. I speak as a guy who has slept on the streets, lived on Romen Noodles, and worked 3 min. wage jobs to make rent while getting my GED. I worked my ass off to get through college, get a house, start a business, and get my piece of the American dream. And there is NOTHING special about me, aside from a willingness to work, and a certain stubborn confidence. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I started as a know-nothing 17 year old with $20, and so while it may be true that I should show more empathy than I sometimes do, this is only because I sincerely believe in the ability of my fellow man and woman to make a better life for THEMSELVES.

Give a man a fish v. teach a man to fish- that's really the heart of this whole worldview.

So, for whatever its worth, please know that I HATE loud-mouthed 20-something "libertarians" who preach against the "nanny state" while sleeping in a bed made by their mother. Unlike these clowns, I'm not trying out a few different personas to see what "fits"; I'm not trying to wedge myself into a clique- I walk the walk, and roll my eyes at those who live at home into their 30's, talking-the-talk, blissfully unaware that if not for their parents, they themselves would be the welfare kings and queens they themselves profess to hate.

And I learned dem big words at my book learnin' school. Young parents: Montessori is worth every penny; my state college (SUNY) was a rip-off and waste of time. Spend the college fund early- hit 'em hard in the formative years. Just my opinion; not a parent, and I hold no relevant credentials.

All good. I actually enjoy your posts Zap, and the fact that you don't shy away is a huge plus.

For the above, I agree with you almost 100%. I can say that living in the ineer city made mean more keenly aware of flaws in our social grid. The philosophy that folks just needed to "pull themselves uup by their own bootstraps" is and isn't good.

There are men and women like yourself who seemed to have done just that. Most of the politicians who espouse this philosophy often had someone to help them with their boots as they made their way, if not the bed/meal maker.

When I became aware of kids who slept in the bathtub to 1) avoid errant gunfire 2) why sleep in a bed when there's no money for sheets 3) bed? Only the man has that! - I had to reconsider a bit. Our society does have some responsibility to our least fortunate. In the end, however, life is what a person makes of it, and only that person can be responsible for his or her self.

Lastly,

Why is it the only comments that get attention around here are the ones I regret making?

;~) Now you know how politicians and teachers feel!

There are some who cannot take care of themselves. As a moral society, we must take care of these people.

One such person is my mother, a schizophrenic who is working hard to maintain herself, despite a long history of mental illness.

In order to afford her care, I subsidize an insurance plan that provides her with the care she needs. I expect I have about 5 years before she needs 24/7 care, and am working to be sure I can afford this.

Traditionally, the social support offered by the state has been offered by family. I think we all agree this is the superior option- no one will ever care for my mother the way I do, and simply stated, I do not trust the state to do right by her. This is half paranoia, and half prejudice from past experience.

Of course, when dealing with a family that lacks the resources to do this- what then? Obviously it is a luxury to take care of loved ones. We are no longer a nation of extended families of self-sustaining farms. The paradigm has shifted.

To use your example of the 'hood, and my own experiences while living on the wrong side of the tracks- my idealism gets the best of me. Perhaps too many cheesy action movies growing up.

A low-income neighborhood is what I imagine hell must be. A collection of under-privileged folks, living under the constant threat of themselves.

Most homes include hard working people who intend to see their children through to a better life, or student-aged folks trying to make it through. Some of the best parties I ever went to were in the hood.

But I also witnessed the ultimate tragedy- when a family turns on itself, a son steal from a mother, or a father beats a daughter. There is nothing more tragic. At some level, I think it is fair to say the ills of the hood are self-inflicted. After all, the man may have deflated wages, and encouraged inflation, but they very, very rarely engage in drive-by shootings.

I could go on another huge rant about gangs here, but short version: I consider gangs another symptom; they serve as family substitutes because, naturally, humans are tribal apes, and little apes need bigger apes to learn the ways of ape-dom.

Also- that's not a racist jab at all. My hood was a pretty diverse blend of asian, latino, black and white. It was a socio-economic, not racial, segregation.

Solutions: this is where I retreat to libertarianism.

Context: born a decade after Johnson's Great Society, raised in an upper-class neighborhood 20 miles from the south Chicago ganglands (Obama is, quite literally, my homeboy). The first black/latino friends I made were from families that had worked their way out. The "bootstraps" ethos was more than lip-service: these were the results of walking the walk.

These people didn't blame "the man" and laughed at those who did. They hated those who left behind in a way I might never understand. Bitter, outspoken anger at those "niggers and spics" who were "lazy and stupid".

The conclusion I have come to: both sides are correct. It is correct to say that, at some point, this becomes society's problem and responsibility. If a person cannot afford/access a shower, a job interview is not even on the radar.

However, AFTER the subsidies, and public housing, and food stamps, and public education- at some point it becomes a matter of choice.

I have a friend who is almost 30, still sleeping in a bunk bed in his mom's house. I doubt he will ever leave. If I had a mom like that, I would NEVER have left home at 17. And if I could get a bail-out of my own, why bother to work so hard? The problem with incentives is that, if given too loosely, the only thing they do is train a dog to beg.

As a matter of fact, I think the entire debate over more v. less social services is a red herring. The issue is not how much we spend, but where and how we spend it. If money alone fixed things, our education and healthcare would still be #1.

Hey, I remember reading about you taking care of your mother as best you can from earlier posts. Bless you for that.

As a matter of fact, I think the entire debate over more v. less social services is a red herring. The issue is not how much we spend, but where and how we spend it. If money alone fixed things, our education and healthcare would still be #1.

Very much agreed. I'll go farther and say that we have more forms of government in the U.S. (and probably other countries as well): capitalism, corporatism/fascism, libertarianism, socialism, and feudalism (the latter in the forms of pyramid schemes, gangs and teh mafia, and indentured servitude). So it is about how the economy is managed. Since many companies have proven themselves un-trustworthy, they deserve government oversight. Again, it's all in how you feel it should be manged, and we can take a hike over to the forum for your bailout thread.

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