By Neil Anderson, Head of School
Greetings TCS families and happy summer. I have a simple challenge I’d like to initiate with the TCS community. If you are reading this from outside the community, I challenge you as well!
Unplug the television and hide the devices for the month of July.
I know all of our families have different practices when it comes to media. I have tried to be consistently clear that although we maintain an almost media-free zone on campus, this does not mean that we do not acknowledge the valuable role media can play in education. We have tried to beat the drum of intentionality, encouraging families to give media its place rather than allowing it to have free reign.
We want our students to be untethered. We want their instinct to be to read something, write something, create something, or play something rather than to be obsessively desirous of passive media absorption. It is our task to give them a chance not to be governed by their desire for media. We have to make hard choices for our children in order to pave the way for their future instinctual good choices in this area.
I realize that many TCS families already have mostly media free homes. But I think there are more families who struggle with what role media should play and are self-conscious about the amount of television, movies, and video games we allow our children to absorb on a regular basis.
The challenge is to take July to reset the home culture system. Commit July to doing the hard work of shutting down media use, a detox if you will. I know you may feel that summer is when you need the TV babysitter the most, but you might be surprised how quickly you no longer feel you need it after a short detox phase. I think the three-day rule will work here just like it does with everything else. Need to break your caffeine addiction? Endure withdrawal headaches for three days and you’ll be good.
It doesn’t have to be a complete detox. Keep Friday movie night or whatever you like, but keep media out of the regular habits of the home. This is the TCS July media-free challenge. If you decide not to participate, you will not be shamed. But if you do accept the challenge, give us a report on how it is going in the comment thread here. My hope is that you might gain a vision for a home-life which does not necessitate steady media usage. I hope you will find new avenues of peace and order in your home and observe some transformation in the lives of your kids.
To encourage you in this challenge, I leave you with this reminder from Roald Dahl:
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.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
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 SENSE 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!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.