Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Television’s hidden benefits

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines educational television as “television that provides instruction especially for students.” That’s what the experts say, but what do the people say?

Courtesy oddharmonic/Flickr

Wikipedia (an online encyclopedia by the people) says that educational television “may be in the form of individual television programs or dedicated specialty channels that are associated with cable television in the United States as public, educational and government access (PEG) channel providers.”

To me, educational television has always meant school days with no classwork. Educational television means substitute teachers, sleeping in class, NOVA videos, somewhat condescending narrators, public broadcasting, or if I’m really lucky, Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Or at least that’s what I thought for a while.

I recently had a minor revelation that, perhaps, educational television doesn’t necessarily have to be something during which the teacher constantly asks, “Can you guys hear it? Is the volume okay? Should I pull down the shades?” as an irritatingly plain 90s VHS lulls me into daydreams.

A conversation with a few friends led me to this revelation when I asked a friend why he didn’t watch “Mad Men,” as many of his peers had suggested to him.

“Why would I want to watch another TV show?” he thought.

I then got to thinking about why we watch TV at all. When we could be cleaning, talking to friends, solving math problems or helping out humankind, we choose to sit and watch someone else do those very things. What’s the point?
Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s always nice to step into someone else’s shoes for a 30-minute episode, even if they are only a character. Let’s face it: reality is a dull, dull world. We’d much rather live imaginary lives than the ones that are right in front of us, lives that can be too daunting to some.

But that’s not all. I think all TV is educational in the sense that we can take a valuable lesson from every show we watch. I’m not necessarily talking about a “Full House” episode where we see a clear problem that inevitably has a resolution, some fake laughter and applause and a laugh track every time. The lessons we take out of TV shows are often less obvious., which is based on the Random House Dictionary, defines education as “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.”

I would argue that every time I watch TV, I am acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment and generally preparing myself for mature life. I’m not sure anyone really knows what “mature life” really means, but according to, it sounds like something that happens to most people, right?

There are always people who say “TV is not real life” and that we shouldn’t base real life situations off of TV shows, but I beg to differ. As a writer, I understand that writers write about what they know. Ideas don’t just come out of nowhere. Every TV show has been written based on some learned experience, and of course, every writer is tied to his or her own unique individual experiences. Therefore, if I am viewing a TV show based on the writer’s life experiences, as all shows inevitably are, I am learning about life.

Watching TV does not only allow us the opportunity to walk in another’s shoes. It allows us to try those shoes on, take a stroll around the store, look in mirrors, experiment with colors and change laces, sizes and styles. We can then walk out into the world with a greater understanding of the fact that all television is educational.

Katie McKenna is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]

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