>Mentors and Media

>Relationships are more important than media, and more powerful. There is an overwhelming amount of children’s media that teaches the virtues of sharing, respecting differences in people, and generally living a fit lifestyle. The Great Ideas and endless practicable information about them are out there. So why are there so many problems?

One way of looking at it says that people simply choose to avoid information that they are uncomfortable with. Through a series of harmless personal choices to watch this or that, read that or the other, or favor entertainment over art, we each form habits or “ruts.” These habits of media consumption become habits of mind which narrow the individual’s field of understanding.

As I wrote in a recent post, the more the Internet enables access to information, the more that most people settle into these ruts. By giving us not only access to media, but also detailed information about its content, information technology enables us to tailor our media diets to what we feel comfortable with. But education is about new and challenging information, and therefore naturally creates discomfort.

My question is, how do people come to feel uncomfortable about certain ideas in the first place? When we are children, we are learning machines. We are curious about everything. Perhaps it is because everything is unknown and therefore uncomfortable that we seek knowledge in our youth. Once we learn a certain amount, we become comfortable with the illusion that we know enough.

If so, then how does discomfort switch from a driving force to a limiting force? The answer lies in relationships. This process begins with an individual’s relationship with his parents which is the standard for all future relationships. The stability and level of encouragement found in an individual’s family is then impacted by the influence of other relationships outside the home.

The more the members of the family live lives of integrity and truth, the more encouraging and stable the relationship will be. The stronger the relationship is, the more the individual will seek truth instead of comfort, and the less he will be susceptible to peer pressure and fashionable ideas. Essentially, he will be free from the influence of a great deal of cultural rip tide because he will sacrifice short term comforts to the long term peace provided by stability.

In the absence of strong, principle-based relationships, people turn inward and rely upon themselves. Like ships tossed in a storm with no sight of land, these people necessarily fear to change position, preferring the devil they know to the one they don’t. Media content that challenges the correctness of an individual’s position demands a change in that position. This feels risky to a person who has no perspective outside himself, and so, this information is avoided.

For a free society to flourish, people of lesser life experience need strong mentor-like relationships. Media alone—even at its most truthful—can be easily twisted, avoided, misunderstood, or ignored at the preference of the individual. Without guidance, more media, and more information about media merely tends to make it easier for a person to live in a world of his own making. And if it’s not the truth, that’s a problem

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Quotes

"For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction."

- Kahlil Gibran

"All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?"
- Nicholas Johnson, author:
"We need the media to be presenting pictures of possibility not just continuing to be prophets of doom and gloom."
- Kevin Kelly, Wired

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."

- Adam Smith
"And the science is overwhelming that for creative, conceptual tasks, those if-then rewards rarely work and often do harm."
- Daniel Pink, author: Drive

"I wish we had a Problem-Solver Party because we have very big problems that need solving. And I think a lot of our attention is addressed to the wrong problems."
- David McCullough, author: 1776
"The goal shouldn't be to have a lot of people to yell at, the goal probably should be to have a lot of people who choose to listen."
- Seth Godin, author: Tribes
"The role of the media is to disseminate information, highlight important current events, and to essentially stand as a witness, an observer of cultural, political, community, and educational events. A healthy media provides a check on the government and increases the political astuteness of republican citizens."
- Stephen Palmer, The Center for Social Leadership
"Advertisers and politicians rely on a half-educated public, on people who know little outside of their own specialty, because such people are easy to deceive with so-called experts, impressive technical or sociological jargon, and an effective set of logical and psychological tricks."
- Robert Harris
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
- John Adams
"I know no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power from them, but to inform them by education."
- Thomas Jefferson
"Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise--as priests, prophets or philosophers are wise. Specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine."
- Allan Bloom, author: The Closing of the American Mind
"He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
(Proverbs 13:20)
"If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all."

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"I learn a lot from TV. Everytime someone turns one on, I go in the other room and read a book."
- Groucho Marx, comedian: Duck Soup
"There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought."
- Charles Kingsley

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