419. The News

I remember that as a child, I hated it when my parents or older brothers turned on the news, or any other program that featured adults talking to adults. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could like it, or why. if people didn’t like it, they paid attention to it anyway. I often noticed that the news did not tend to make viewers feel good; they got angry, depressed, or otherwise negative.
And unlike other things that bothered them, there didn’t seem to be anything they could do about the news. It was on television, on radio, or in newspapers – none of which responded in any way to the ranting and raving I heard. I knew that voting was one thing they could do about it, but the people in the news who upset my parents were often the ones my parents had voted for, and would vote for again next time. I wished those nasty politicians would be nicer to my family.
Later, I was taught that paying attention to the news would somehow make me a better person; we lived in a democracy, and according to my social studies teacher, Mr. Layton, “Democracy depends on a well-informed electorate.” Mr. Layton spoke these words with conviction in his voice, and being impressed with that tone, I decided that I was going to pay attention to the news. I liked Mr. Layton. Much more than I liked paying attention to the news
There was a war going on at the time. All I knew about war was that I had relatives who’d fought in one, and that I’d seen movies that made war seem glorious, exciting, and noble. As far as I knew, each war was supposed to have “good guys” and “bad guys.” And the “good guys” always won. The first book I read about politics was Why Not Victory?, by Barry Goldwater, and it fit my understanding of what war was about.
But the war I saw on news programs didn’t look glorious, exciting, or noble. It just seemed to be ending a lot of people’s lives before they’d really gotten started. And there were demonstrations against war and injustice which also occasionally ended some lives. I gradually began to think that the more I understood what was happening, the less I would like it. I was going to have to either stop becoming aware of the news or become an activist. I did a little of each.
Children still have a tendency not to like news programs. They don’t understand why adults seem to get so obsessed with the news. Now, I listen to NPR news every day. I do it because I want to. But as a parent and teacher, I rarely tried to get children to pay attention to current events. Part of the reason was the ephemeral nature of the news; any lesson plan I wrote about current events would become somewhat obsolete before or shortly after I used it. And another part of the reason was my own early childhood memories of watching news programs. I didn’t like them. I’m not sure what my point is, or why I wrote this article. But children’s perception of the news is worth thinking about.

Comments are closed.