The Inadequacy of TV

Last night, I watched a PBS documentary about an extension of 19th century learning at Chautauqua and another about 21st century learning in several advanced schools.

People living in the 20th century may have been amused, engaged and enthralled by the miracle of television’s ability to deliver Chautauqua or in Science Leadership Academy into their living rooms, but living here in the 21st century, both television experiences left me cold.

Helen Gayle, C.A.R.E.

I had questions. I wanted to get in touch with Helene Gayle, the C.A.R.E. CEO whose family had been vacationing at Chautauqua for generations. Every morning, Chautauqua features a speaker at 10:45 a.m., and I wanted to access Gayle’s speech–and the ones by David McCullough and Daniel Pink, too. I wanted to take a walk with McCullough, or do the virtual equivalent. Sound bites in a documentary? That’s all we get from television? It’s not enough. Not any more. Not in the era of the iPad and YouTube and TEDTalks.

I wanted to see a full class at Science Leadership. I wanted a full-scale Q&A with some students, some teachers, some parents. Cutesy camera angles don’t make television a modern medium. Neither does HDTV. It’s the connection that makes my “post PC device” magical. And that’s not TV. Not now, not at this 21st century moment.

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