I love my television, as a source of entertainment, even as a shape that resides in my living room. But I”m seriously considering taking the bumper stickers advice. I find myself watching pointless hours of nothingness – shows I’ve already seen, reality series that I just complain about later, CW soap-ish dramas that make me think I understand how the world works. But even recognizing the facile, banal, mindlessness of much of what’s on TV hasn’t made me want to turn it off permanently yet.
This week it was reading about the two recent reports on the state of reading in our culture that really perked me up. In 2004, the National Endowment for the Arts produced “Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America.” This report, in case you haven’t heard, found that the amount of literary reading done by Americans dropped by 10 percentage points between 1982 and 2002. And that people aged 18-24 (the age of the majority of my students) read 55% less than others.
I had heard about this report when it came out four years ago, and it made me sad. But I finishing up grad school then, reading all the time, so it didn’t seem that personal.
But just this past November the NEA issued another report – “To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence.” I read about it in Poets and Writers Magazine, in their article, “The Grim Reader,” Kevin Nance points out what I found to be one of the saddest points of the article: most people between the ages of 18 and 24 spend over two hours a day watching television and only seven minutes reading. How sad, I thought at first, and then I thought, “Wait. That’s me.”
So I’m there. I’m ready to kill my television. I feel I have to so that I’m a model for my students, so that I am embued more with the beauty of language and less with the detritus of TV, and so that I can say that what I write is worthwhile – what kind of hypocrite would I be if I wanted people to read my stuff when I didn’t read anything else.
So I’m on the hunt for the “Kill Your Television” bumper sticker, and on a mission to get myself (and maybe others) reading more. Are you in?
P.S. Thanks to C.M. Mayo for mentioning me on her great Madame Mayo Blog.
P.S. Check out Gayle Brandeis’ blog “Fruitful” to see a great self-created trailer for her book Self-Storage that was just released in paperback.