Tuesday, August 6, 2013

C.S. Lewis on getting boys to read newspapers

...Meanwhile, on the Continent, the unskilled butchery of the first German War went on.  As it did so and as I began to foresee that it would probably last till I reached military age, I was compelled to make a decision which the law had taken out of the hands of English boys of my own age;  for in Ireland we had no conscription.  I did not much plume myself even then for deciding to serve, but I did feel that the decision absolved me from taking any further notice of the war.
...No doubt, even if the attitude was right, the quality in me which made it so easy to adopt is somewhat repellent.  Yet, even so, I can hardly regret having escaped the appalling waste of time and spirit which would have been involved in reading the war news or taking more than an artificial and formal part in conversations about the war. To read without military knowledge or good maps accounts of fighting which were distorted before they reached the Divisional general and further distorted before they left him and then "written up" out of all recognition by journalists, to strive to master what will be contradicted the next day, to fear and hope intensely on shaky evidence, is surely an ill use of the mind.  Even in peacetime I think those are very wrong who say that schoolboys should be encouraged  to read the newspapers.  Nearly all that a boy read there in his teens will be known before he is twenty to have been false in emphasis and interpretation, if not in fact as well, and most of it will have lost all importance.  Most of what he remembers he will therefore have to unlearn;  and he will probably have acquired an incurable taste for vulgarity and sensationalism and the fatal habit of fluttering from paragraph to paragraph to learn how an actress has been divorced in California, a train derailed in France, and quadruplets born in New Zealand.  (pp. 158,159; Surprised by Joy.)

Part of me rebels against this.  Because I read newspapers, maybe.  But I am not a schoolboy.  I am a fully grown woman, a voter, a commentator...  who knows.  Good information is important.  What you don't know does kill you.  Ignorance is not bliss.  Things like that.

Goethe said something similar.  He did not read the paper for some weeks and found at the end that he had missed nothing.

These are the people that make up stories (Lewis and Goethe). They don't miss the newspaper when they don't read it.

But, Chamberlain appeased Hitler.  The English were so firm in their opinion of the genetic militarism of the Germans they refused to help the German resistance, writing off the German movement.  I don't know.  We have got to be with it.  What we don't know or suppress can kill millions.  But surely there is a time for news and a time for no news and always with a dose of skepticism.  And not everything is good for children.

He does not talk about girls.  Should girls read newspapers?  The other day there was a study published that world-wide females are more poorly informed about events than males are.  But only in America were those who watched more newscasts more poorly informed than those who don't watch as much.  This does say something about some media and the American diet of sensationalism.  I have no trouble rationalizing cutting out all American news outlets.

Decent news has always been important. And where ever someone wants to take over and dominate he wants to first dominate or cut out the media.  This has become very difficult to do with the internet and such, but now it seems that those who have the least knowledge want to scream the loudest.  It's not an easy thing to sort out, but we have to try.

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