Thursday, July 7, 2011

If Geordie Shore Is The Future Then We Are Doomed

I missed Jersey Shore but last night I caught the premiere episode of "Geordie Shore" set in Newcastle in the North East of England. I've been to Newcastle and was frankly terrified by the place. By the skin of my teeth I avoided getting seven bells knocked out of me by muscly, tanned, drunken rampaging gangs and of course the men are worse...badum boom. Geordie Shore celebrates chav life: drinking, fighting, having casual sex, watching TV, drug taking, more drinking. There is no reading, no reflection, no attempt at understanding one's place in the universe. At first I thought Geordie Shore was going to be like Viz comic, but the kids on Geordie Shore wouldn't get Viz because they have no sense of irony. They have been utterly failed by the culture. The British educational system encourages teachers to impart information - the idea being that this may be the last chance these children will ever have to read Shakespeare or hear about Admiral Nelson, so, by God they are going to get Shakespeare and Nelson shoved down their throats whether they like it or not. I understand that motivation but what I would like to see is an educational system that teaches children to think for themselves, to be skeptical of their peer group, to love learning, to be confident enough to rebel against knee jerk anti-intellectualism, to have the ability to argue their case...
...
For several years I taught in a Waldorf School that follows a different pedagogical approach, where critical thinking is taught and children are encouraged to revere learning for its own sake (although it must be said that some of the kids at Waldorf do NOT thrive on the lack of structure). I've also always admired the Baccalaureat which teaches French high school students rhetoric and philosophy. In France children are given an intellectual tool kit at the age of 16 and although most of them probably never consider philosophy again in their lives, at least its there in the background, a resource to be tapped if they want it.
...
I think I've mentioned Neil Postman on this blog before. In the 70s and 80s he was considered to be an alarmist, but I think his classic work Amusing Ourselves To Death is more relevant today than it was when it was written. Yes I know the counter argument: everyone said writing would be the death of oral stortelling, plays would be the death of books, radio would be the death of literature, cinema...TV...the internet etc. and all those media are still alive today; but something has changed in recent decades, the djinn is out of the bottle and if Geordie Shore represents the future then we are probably doomed.