It has been said that television is a vast wasteland. Here are some exercises in reality for schoolchildren so that they can judge the value of television for themselves. Adults can benefit too.
This exercise is intended to bring reality into a world of TV which is fraught with senseless violence (or is that stupidity?).
Show the class a typical TV program. The example that I will use shows the so-called hero swinging on a rope from a rooftop onto a very large balcony on another building. The guys on the balcony are, of course, all bad. Our hero has a machine gun slung over his shoulder. Upon landing on the balcony, surprising the bad guys, he un-slings his machine gun and proceeds to shoot down all the bad guys dead.
Now there are bodies laying on the floor, bodies draped over the balcony railing, slumped in corners, etc.
Our hero retrieves and re-ties his rope, and then swings off the balcony to the ground and continues to look for bad guys to kill.
The class assignment:
Students should be encouraged to be creative. No holds barred. This exercise is intended to make students think about the consequences of their actions; about how rash actions may have terrible consequences.
A visit to a TV studio might really help the students.
Physics classes might consider some questions about how a lone hero can both tie the rope and swing on it from a roof or balcony? With what force does he land on the balcony? Can he survive the landing? What are the conditions to make this work?
What is the reaction time of the bad guys (assuming that they have guns) such that our hero can kill them all first before they can shoot him? What is the maximum number of bad guys our hero can kill and still escape?
This sort of thing can be repeated for many different programs. A creative teacher can come up with many challenging questions.
Bob Dole is being interviewed by Larry King. The television audience sees only two people in a one-on-one conversation. In reality this is all taking place in a busy, well populated studio.
This is a good exercise because all to often we forget that all these neat things we see involve a camera. It is always useful to ask yourself, "Where is the camera?" "What is its impact on the scene?"
A riot is taking place. The video screen is full of rioters from one edge of the screen to the other.
Note: I actually walked right past a "riot" on San Jose University campus where I was attending classes in the 60s; except I didn't recognize the scene as a riot. It was a well- behaved speaker speaking somewhat wildly to a rather passive audience of about 20 to 40 students. Later that evening I saw the same thing on TV. The camera angle was right to the edge of the crowd and no further. It did look like a huge riot. To me this misrepresentation of the scene was unethical. Furthermore this misrepresentation had the effect of causing trouble for people and institutions which did not deserve it.
Now, I can't help but always ask myself, "Where's the camera?".