Romanowski: From junk culture to genius culture

Most of the people in the "know," meaning the intelligentsia who share a mutual concern for the fate of society, continually make the claim that certain aspects of our culture are having a negative impact on the rest.

The claims often vary in the scope of their criticism, but on the whole they usually point to certain forms of entertainment as a vacuum which have pulled our society into a downward spiral of moral decrepitude.

The linkages run across a variety of subjects from the mundane to the deeply disturbing, and now that dime-a-dozen theories have begun to ossify into a broad societal sentiment, many baby boomers have taken to shielding their children from Power Rangers to avoid one day staring at that same child through a glass window with a speaker in the middle.

People will always express concern over every factor or thing that touches their children's lives no matter how brief or tangential. Still I cannot help but wonder how much of this concern is really borderline superstition and a kind of voodoo psychology.

Now before you jump to the conclusion that I have divested a great deal of my time and energy into investigating the relation between television and brain activity, I should inform you all that I am not a psychology major. I can, however, observe that most parents would serve their child's interests a lot more by not fretting about the impact of television and video games.

In fact I am increasingly worried about the use of science for utilitarian ends. Aside from the fact that treating children as plants that need to be grown under ideal conditions is innately inhumane, there is a real liability in that we might miss some fundamental aspect of a child's development by attempting to regulate that development.

There is also the question of whether or not it is fundamentally right to deny a child the pleasure of television and video games. Many people become so lost in their own glib high mindedness when discussing the subject that they forget the fundamental allure of such things.

After all, even the notorious television critic David Foster Wallace said that "…what's seldom acknowledged is how complex and ingenious TV's seductions are. It's seldom acknowledged that viewers' relationship with TV is, albeit debased, intricate and profound." Could anything be more pleasing to our senses then that which is designed to ensnare them?

Certainly there can be no solid benefit to watching television for eight hours a day, but that is not the point. A good parent should understand their own child well enough to know what forces are impacting them and if they do not, then they have bigger problems that turning off the TV won't fix.

I am sympathetic, however, to the plight of the overworked parent who needs junk culture to placate their child for even a moment, but I do think that a good parent can use junk culture to their advantage to raise a more intelligent child. Mostly we view junk culture as a cheap sensory thrill with no lasting benefit but this couldn't be further from the truth.

All human experiences are sensory experiences and junk culture can be a way for a creative parent to spark an appreciation for other sensory experiences in their own child. After all the Harry Potter book (junk culture) have easily been one of the greatest boons to childhood literacy in the last decade.

While this strategy can be exhausting for a parent (especially since it requires being very attuned to the child's interests and ideas), it requires little more than interaction with the child from an early age. If Harry Potter can get a child interested in reading then who know what the other aspects of junk culture can do for a clever parent.

One sensory experience can lead to a more beneficial and complex one, and junk culture can easily lead to genius culture.