Dear Friends and Benefactors of the Society of St. Pius X,
This month let us return to our consideration of developing
resourcefulness in our children.
Recall that a resourceful person is one who is capable of
dealing with real-life situations and difficulties.
In dealing with this subject, we first considered how
important it was for parents to give their children what they truly need and not
necessarily what they simply want. By doing this parents help their children not
only to control their desires but they also teach them how to deal with real
Parents, however, must also strive to remove any obstacles
which might prevent or destroy this quality in their children. After all, no one
can finish a work if he tears down with one hand what he tries to build up with
the other. And among the most prevalent obstacles to developing resourcefulness
in todayís world is television.
If you have ever had the opportunity to watch children as
they watch television, you would notice how they sit with their mouths slightly
open, eyes glazed, oblivious to everything around them. Nothing short of the TV
blowing up can get their attention. They become passive, incommunicative
"zombies" who cannot play, create, or think clearly. This effect is especially
noticed in younger children who unfortunately are usually the ones put in front
of the television by parents hoping to keep them "occupied". Many a teacher, and
not only in our schools, has lamented the fact that they must constantly
struggle against these "zombie-like" effects in their students.
One study showed that, on the average, children watch 4 hours
of television per day. This amounts to nearly 1500 hours of television per year.
"But my child only watches 2 hours of television each day." Well this may be
well below the national average, but think of the time that is wasted with even
2 hours. If before attending school, a child watches an average of 20 hours of
television a week, which is still below the national average, he will have
viewed nearly 4000 hours of television before entering school. 4000 hours! Is it
any wonder that such children, spending so much time staring at flickering
visual field, have problems with their key neural skills? This may well explain
why, in comparison to other countries, we have such a problem with learning
disabilities and attention deficit disorders.
Considering this, it should be no wonder that so many
children, and later adults, cannot deal with real life problems. Rather than
making the effort, it is much easier to plop down in front of the television
where the electronic drugging helps to push these problems aside. It is like a
narcotic which dulls the brain, inducing a stupor, a sort of sleep, preventing
the pain from registering. The hypnotic effect produced as the attention is
focused on the screen, while at the same time pictures are racing through the
mind, virtually suspends the power of thinking, the contact of the mind with
According to Rutgers University psychologist and TV-Free
America board member Robert Kubey, millions of Americans are so hooked on
television that they fit the criteria for substance abuse as defined in the
official psychiatric manual. Heavy TV viewers exhibit five dependency symptoms Ė
two more than necessary to arrive at a clinical diagnosis of substance abuse.
Among the various symptoms are: using TV as a sedative; indiscriminate viewing;
feeling loss of control while viewing; feeling angry with oneself for watching
too much; inability to stop watching; feeling miserable when kept from watching.
Author, Jerry Mander, in his book Four Arguments for the
Elimination of Television, says: "When you are watching TV, you are
experiencing mental images. As distinguished from most sense deprivation
experiments these mental images are not yours. They are someone elseís. Because
the rest of your capacities have been subdued, and the rest of the world dimmed,
these images are likely to have an extraordinary degree of influence. Am I
saying this is brainwashing or hypnosis or mind-zapping or something like it?
Well, there is no question but that someone is speaking into your mind and wants
you to do something. First, keep watching. Second, carry the images around in
your head. Third, buy something. Fourth, tune in tomorrow."
Nor is the impact of television felt only by the individual;
it is felt by all society. Dr. John Nelson of the American Medical Association
said that 2,888 out of 3,000 studies show that TV violence is a causal factor in
real-life mayhem, "itís a public health problem." The American
Psychiatric Association addressed this problem in its endorsement of National
TV-turnoff Week, stating: "We have had a long-standing concern with the
impact of television on behavior, especially among children."
Yet these warnings go unheeded just as they did several
decades ago when television was first introduced as a new technology.
Pope Pius XII recognized the powerful influence television
could have on menís minds and so warned of its misuse in his encyclical
For these new possessions and new instruments which are
within almost everyoneís grasp, introduce a most powerful influence into menís
minds, both because they can flood them with light, raise them to nobility,
adorn them with beauty, and because they can disfigure them by dimming their
luster, dishonor them by a process of corruption, and make them subject to
uncontrolled passions, according as the subjects presented to the senses in
these shows are praiseworthy or reprehensible.
In the past century, advancing technical skill in the field
of business frequently had this result: machines, which ought to serve men,
when brought into use rather reduced them to a state of slavery and caused
Likewise today, unless the mounting development of
technical skill, applied to the diffusion of pictures, sounds and ideas is
subjected to the sweet yoke of the law of Christ, it can be the source of
countless evils, which appear to be all the more serious, because not only
material forces but also minds are unhappily enslaved. And manís inventions
are, to that extent, deprived of those advantages which in the design of Godís
Providence ought to be their primary purpose.
Their primary purpose is of course to serve truth and
justice, which Pius XII says demands "that all refrain from error, from lies,
from deceit of all kinds but also that they shun everything that can encourage a
manner of living and acting which is false, imperfect, or harmful to another
party." If they do not serve this purpose but rather "embark on a
downward and uninhibited path, they will certainly restrict the peopleís true
development and weaken their morals."
The pope was aware, even in his time, of the intentional
misuse of television to entice men: "Should we not shudder if we reflect
attentively that by means of television shows, even within home surroundings all
can inhale that poisoned air of Ďmaterialisticí doctrines which diffuse notions
of empty pleasures and desires of all kinds?" And drive them from God: "We
are fully aware, alas, that in some nations amid which atheistic communism is
rampant, these methods of telecommunication are directed in the schools to root
out all religious ideas from the mind."
Many today do recognize the problems caused by the misuse of
this technology, and unfortunately they turn away from the only solution, which
the pope also gave over 50 years ago: our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is no doubt intentional on the part of some, as
evidenced by several excerpts from a recent article written by a science
correspondent in the newspaper The Guardian labeled "No Religion and An
End to War: How Thinkers See the Future." The article begins: "Peopleís
fascination for religion and superstition will disappear within a few decades as
television and the internet make it easier to get information, and scientists
get closer to discovering a final theory of everything, leading thinkers argue
today." The article says that the web magazine Edge asked more than
150 "scientists and intellectuals": "What are you optimistic about?"
Some of the responses show just how far modern technology has perverted us.
A "philosopher", Daniel Denett, is quoted as saying that the
spread of information through the internet and mobile phones will "gently,
irresistibly, undermine the mindsets requisite for religious fanaticism and
intolerance." A "biologist", Richard Dawkins, said that physicists would
give religion another problem: a theory of everything that would complete Albert
Einsteinís dream of unifying the fundamental laws of physics. "This final
scientific enlightenment will deal an overdue death blow to religion and other
"Absurd!" Well, let us hope so. But if we, especially as
traditional Catholics, continue to welcome the corrupting influence of
television into our homes, we will also quickly succumb to its materialistic and
immoral messages. And our children will never learn how to deal with lifeís
problems, which is so necessary to the salvation of their souls.
Sincerely in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,
Fr. John D. Fullerton