On Mental Devolution

by MarianneShih


The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all…

Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?

It rots the senses in the head!
It kills imagination dead!
It clogs and clutters up the mind!
It makes a child so dull and blind
He can no longer understand
A fantasy, a fairyland!
His brain becomes as soft as cheese!
His powers of thinking rust and freeze!
He cannot think – he only sees!

Finish the poem here!
Excerpt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl


Jean Lotus’s article, It’s Official: TV Linked to Attention Deficit, explores a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics that states video-watching can harm toddlers by causing Attention Deficit or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder further on in life. This is caused by flashing images and speedy scene shifts that are shown on TV, which “rewire” a baby’s brain to think that such activity the norm when it is not. According to Dr. Dmitri A. Cristakis of the Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, over-stimulation caused by video exposure  alters neural pathways in a crucial stage of development.

A quick search on Google reveals that the average length of a TV commercial ranges from fifteen to thirty seconds. Some of us spend even less time skimming through the front page of a newspaper. We jump to what we want or what we think we want, and “thoughtfully” peruse the article, comic, or advertisement for… how long? Ten minutes, if even. We absorb a few choice words, maybe a phrase, maybe even a whole statement in order to make ourselves feel worldly and cosmopolitan. How often do we actually hold fragmented information deep in our memories for real enrichment (not to say that enrichment must be found in all things)? Dashing through blurbs can only bring a certain amount of fulfillment. The question is whether this is mostly a result of our wishes to appear a certain way, a desire for efficiency, or our attention-deficit-and-hyperactive minds going to work.

Forget the newspaper. As we’ve transformed our main sources of information from pulp to pixels, we’ve broadened the number of blurbs we expose ourselves to – in addition to increasing the speed at which we can browse. As each new trinket goes from 3G to 4G to a bazillion kilobytes per second, we open our minds to the possibility of developing a sort of attention disorder. Like a pianist learning a new piece and becoming accustomed to each hand’s patterns, our hyperactive brains can also become accustomed to bouncing about from one half-idea to another.

TV bringing on behavioral disorders? It’s presumably true for our kids. We could be doomed to the same fate – except we’re bringing this on ourselves. Today’s world is certainly fast-paced, in which it would be unreasonable for most of us to reflect on every single news briefing. However, if eventually no one could survive without giving into incessant ADD tendencies, then our fast-paced world would quickly slow to a stop. Gone would be our inventors, our musicians, sculptors, scholars, and anything that required time and concentration. Artistic workmanship would dwindle down to those being clever with meme generators. These are the reasons for our dying symphonies: we simply don’t care enough, we have little to no attention span, and all we really want is quick, dirty and catchy (and their finances are shot). It’s what we’re used to, after all.

Ravel gives fighting the system a whole new meaning.

If you’re still here, congratulations (there might still be some hope for you)!  But let’s push further… Are we devolving? Let’s converse. 😉