Archive for the 'Learning By Ear' Category

Does TV Rot Your Brain?

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

Well… yes. Maybe not technically, but it really CAN erode your ability to THINK and IMAGINE.

The truth is, television (especially in the large doses most people get these days) is not healthy for your brain. (Though I suspect some of you may have already guessed that.)

But the reason I’m about to give you may be a surprise:

TV is bad for your brain because it is PASSIVE ENTERTAINMENT.

There is a HUGE difference between ACTIVE and PASSIVE forms of entertainment. Television is passive: No imagination or active thought are required when viewing — it is all laid out for you in glorious full color with Dolby stereo sound. When someone is passively entertained, the higher reasoning faculties of the brain shift into idle while the senses and emotions are stimulated (or overstimulated).

You can see this for yourself simply by watching your children (or your spouse!) watch TV. Note their facial expressions. Most of the time, you’ll find there IS no expression — just a glazed over stare. The mind is passively receiving the program being viewed — not considering what it means, not critically considering the implications of what is taking place, not using the imagination.


For certain, that is one thing television will never teach us how to use. It has the uncanny ability to spoon feed every conceivable image (good and evil) into an open and idle mind. In fact, the more our minds are filled with television’s “manufactured imagery”, the less we use our own imagination… and our ability to form clear thoughts and mental images likewise decreases.

On the other hand, audio entertainment — listening to a book being read aloud… storytelling… old time radio programs… story tapes and the like — REQUIRE active participation from the listener, who is forced to concentrate on what is going on as the story unfolds. Listening skills are sharpened. The imagination is stretched and developed as you “fill in the blanks” on the theater of the mind.

I’ll share this testimony with you: Our three children have regularly listened to story tapes and old time radio programs ever since they were old enough to understand them. We let them listen to a show or story every night at bedtime.

Aside from the fact that keeps bedtime fidgeting at a minimum, this has had one most pleasant side-effect: They are the best listeners I know of. They are auditory learners. You tell them something, you read them something, they retain it. I mean just about anything, down to the smallest detail. It is really amazing. And I credit it to nightly exposure to these tapes which have trained them to focus and pay attention to the stories that are being told.

In a 1950s consumer survey, one boy summed this up nicely when asked his entertainment preferences: “I like radio programs better than TV, ” he said, ” because the pictures are better.”

We couldn’t agree more. And after you listen to a few of the classic treasures we’ll be sharing with you in the weeks to come, we think you will too.

“Prime Times” for listening

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

Over the past several years that our family has listened to old time radio programs and audiobooks, we’ve found that there are some “prime times” to turn on a tape or CD and tune in.

Road trips are one of the best time for these programs. With everyone confined, restless and usually bored, these shows are very easy to absorb and enjoy. We usually will listen to one, then take a break for a half hour or so before tackling another. Makes the time go by very fast, and gives us a natural topic of discussion following each program. Since we live out in the country and it takes a half hour to get anywhere, we also will listen to a show when heading into town. If you’ve got long errands or a trip coming up, take along a tape or two.

The other “prime time” for listening: bedtime. Audio shows are a natural for darkened rooms and quiet listening. They help settle down fidgety little ones, and give them something to look forward to at bedtime. Because of the stillness of the hour, and the fact that all attention is focused on one thing, it seems shows listened to at night like this are the best retained and remembered. (Because of this, we’ve learned NOT to put on a scary story at bedtime. : )