COLUMN: Better television programming a start to curing society's ills

Tuesday, December 8, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 3:48 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 9, 2009

People who spend a lot of time listening to the national news could easily assume that Americans spend all their time debating political issues, firing guns at each other or watching celebrities do stupid things. One could wonder how the land that claims such notables as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell could have fallen so far from grace.

Actually, most of us really do have a life and a variety of activities to occupy our time. And in spite of all the bad new there is a lot of good news that affects the lives of us all that doesn’t get reported on a daily basis.

Take the news in medical research that doesn’t make the nightly news. The advancements in the treatment of HIV have been a lifesaver for many. A decade ago, knee and hip replacements in many communities were rarities. Nowadays no one is surprised when someone says they are having that surgery. The fact that we don’t have a television channel devoted just to medical news is ridiculous.

I’m convinced that as many hours as people spend in front of the set, we would be a less violent society if we had more sensible television fare. Just think how much educational material could be programmed for viewing. A variety of subjects could be taught to help people polish their skills, change careers and investigate new fields of learning. Why should so much time be wasted on what some consider entertainment?

It might surprise some in the media to know that there are a lot of Americans who can entertain themselves and do not need others to do so for them. And whether the people in the media know it or not, there are a lot of us out here who find learning fun. We enjoy the challenge of new ideas. We appreciate the opportunity to expand our horizons. And frankly, some of us feel it’s very shortsighted of anyone to believe that there are not still Fords, Edisons and Bells ready to surprise us with new inventions and creations at any moment.

There are probably teachers out here who encounter students with extraordinary potential all the time. There may not be many, but there probably weren’t many when the aforementioned notables were making their marks. Television brings so much of the everyday stupidity into our homes that we forget how many accomplishments are made beyond the camera lens.

The criminals, the malcontents, the cheaters, the illiterates, the hustlers and the sexually offensive take up so much space, breathe so much of the oxygen and create so much noise and confusion in our society that those who are studying and working to accomplish something worthwhile sometimes get overlooked. Or perhaps we don’t want to notice them because they don’t appeal to our appetite for drama.

If we ever (which I seriously doubt that we will) take some time, each of us in our own homes, to check ourselves and our families out and determine where we fit into the scheme of things, we might create a better world. Can we talk to each other honestly and openly, assess our strengths and weaknesses as individuals and family members and set some future goals for where we would like to see ourselves heading in the days to come?

I heard a woman stressing out on television the other day as she pointed out that our system of justice is broken and that we need to fix it. And, of course, she’s exactly right, but when will we begin?

I truly believe that we are ultimately going to have to ask ourselves if we can really fix any of our major judicial problems, or have the inmates taken over the prison? I don’t know if we can get the justice system straightened out. You see, I don’t know whose purpose it serves to keep it broken. Unfortunately, that’s where we are in this country, where it’s all about money.

I suppose any good scientist would tell us that any experiment can fail, whether it’s noble or not. Sometimes, the truth makes you want to cry.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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