Ray Bradbury predicted a scenario that appears hauntingly similar to today’s environment for both entertainment and education. In Fahrenheit 451, Fireman Montag has stolen a book when he’s visited by Captain Beatty. Beatty tries to explain to Montag that books don’t actually need to be burned; no one wants to read them. The fireman’s job was simply to keep peace by removing items that might cause someone to feel inferior to their fellow man.
“Picture it. Nineteenth-century man with his horses, dogs, carts, slow motion. Then in the twentieth century, speed up your camera… Whirl man’s mind around so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought.
“School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped. English and spelling gradually neglected. Then, the bigger the population, the more the minorities. Don’t step on the toes of the dog lovers, cat lovers, … Mormons, Baptists, second-generation Chinese, … people from Oregon or Mexico.”
The concept of inoffensive behavior wasn’t created by government proclamation. “Technology, mass exploitation and minority pressure carried the trick!”
Welcome to the 21st century, folks, because the video generation is upon us. Our children are overloaded with information at a magnitude that is nearly incomprehensible just one generation removed.
While I’d prefer my teenage children would open a book on occasion, I’m much more concerned that they be exposed to ideas and concepts that will teach them—and their classmates—HOW to live in a free society.
How do we reach this audience with thought-provoking ideas that generate true critical thinking? It matters less today how they get the information, but that we find a way to guide the information toward their screens.