Nothing’s Changed

In honor of my return to normal blogging, I am republishing a post written 10 (Yes 10) years ago. It was a jeremiad against the infantile coverage by news media of the political scene and the dumbing down of communication. We are now inundated with mispronounced words and misspelled video crawls and that doesn’t even begin to touch on gossip masquerading as information. So enjoy Willie and his cohorts who once taught children there were bigger and better things in the world and they could actually learn about them all at the Saturday cartoons.


31 August 2006 The Whale Sang Opera

Willie WhaleThis past week has been an amazing example of what may be wrong with the country. The news has gone from Iraq to Jonbenet to Warren Jeffs to Rumsfeld to fascism to the President. The majority of the commentary has been on a ten-year old murder case and a captured polygamist, and most of that has been in breathless, gushing one syllable words. The President rattled off a group of talking points almost all of which were then echoed or shown on every TV “news” program with the implication that you would either support or oppose those statements with little or no real analysis or critical thinking – simply a knee jerk reaction from whichever side of the political spectrum you call your own. Little of the news or entertainment requires a functioning brain. You simply parrot whatever you are spoon fed by your side of the political spectrum to then be regurgitated to your friends and compatriots.

A great deal of teaching in today’s classrooms amounts to “teaching to the test”, simply informing children of the information they will need to parrot on being examined. There really is nothing wrong with teaching children information by rote. What is missing is the encouragement of curiosity and exposure to bigger ideas, different worlds, and thoughtful commentary. When I was in what amounted to an AP class many, many years ago, the teacher gave “open book” tests because it was more important to know how to find information than it was to “know” it. Even for the average student, the idea was to rise to the level of instruction not bring instruction down to the understandable level of the child. Many years ago Marva Collins proved that even the least advantaged child will achieve if that is what is rewarded by their parents and their cohorts.

In the upper left hand corner is Willie the Whale. He is a Disney cartoon. He sang Figaro, Pagliacci, and Faust along with Mama’s Little Baby Loves Shortnin’ Bread, and children of that era loved him along with Night on Bald Mountain, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and Peter and the Wolf. On TV we had Ed Sullivan and for every plate twirled or Senor Wences with his hand puppet saying, “All right” there were live scenes from Broadway plays and opera singers. News was Uncle Walter with real “News” not some blond newsreader who cannot pronounce many of the words on the copy in their hands … my latest bugaboo one who says o-ree-on rather than o-rye-un.

Frank Sinatra sang “The House I Live In” with its multi racial cast and it won an Oscar. Listen to the dialogue of movies from the 30s through 60s and hear multiple syllable words, Marx Brothers double entendres, and Cole Porter lyrics. Even among the least educated, the exposure through movies and TV to the unfamiliar was constant. For those who couldn’t make their way through a whole novel, there was the Readers Digest version. Part of the problem is cable TV that allows you to run away from something you don’t understand. When there were three networks, you took what you could get. For all the advantages of multiple channels, it is also possible to only hang out where you are comfortable or where your prejudices are reinforced. Sure there were injustices and prejudices in materials forty years ago. There are cartoons you can’t show on TV today because of those images, but there were also more ways to escape what your were raised with at home. If nothing else, Fred Astaire dancing in a tux said there was a different world out there.

We have become a nation that swallows things whole without investigation. We are a nation that distrusts “other” ideas. We no longer seek out alternate experiences or events. Virtually every magazine or TV show has some sensational tabloid feature. Many motion pictures are aimed at the lowest common denominator. Once an adult, you can get through life without reading anything other than misspelled email and the material necessary to do your job. For the majority of people, there is little to no encouragement to seek out books, discussions, debates, or public group experiences with other adults. Lives have become insular: work/home with little time left over for anything else. Even the children are programmed with their mothers known as Soccer Moms. Society has come down to the level of the child rather than insisting that the child come up to the level of adults.

Let’s bring back Willie.

About Jamie

Retired Writer Editor - Loves Books, Musical Theater, politics for a good argument, genealogy, Scotland and owls
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Literature, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Nothing’s Changed

  1. Jamie says:

    And then there was full prokofiev “Peter & the Wolf”. Here is just a sample with Peter’s Theme.


  2. Jamie says:

    Unfortunately, Disney has deleted the English language version of Willie


  3. blueINdallas says:

    Ten years ago? Well, things have changed even more. Emails faded away, and texts sometimes consist of only an emoji or two. How much more dumbed down can we get?


  4. Tony says:

    Hi Jamie
    You’re not a wallflower at all.. You’re a real life saver, thanks..


  5. Thanks so much for letting us take over your blog while Craig was away.

    “We no longer seek alternate experiences or events.”

    Yup…. that’s why I chose to watch the latest Republican debate… even though I knew I wouldn’t agree with most of what was said. That’s why despite being disgusted by Donald Trump, I’m trying to understand all the anger that supports him.
    Bill Maher started a new season last night. He began with interviewing Al Gore on climate change. He then had a panel of 3 guests… 2 of which were Republicans. Ralph Reed was seated right next to Bill. I admire that he can talk civilly with the opposite side even though he profoundly disagrees with their point of view. Although I will admit that sometimes it just feels good to shout out… “you moron”… at the right wingers on television. 🙂


    • Jamie says:

      Have to admit every time I hear a politician pooh pooh climate change and the destruction human beings are wreaking on the earth, my poor television is in danger of a crashing demise. So far I’m restricting myself to soft objects.


  6. LILA2020US@YAHOO.COM says:

    Since The Oscars don’t fall on a specific day, like Christmas, do they coincide with your birthday this year?
    Are you and David going to do a movie review before the show?


  7. Tony says:

    Thanks again for the home away from home.. T


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