The Channelization of America

Krotchett – It’s hard to put my finger on the problem. My natural senses tell me it might be a generational thing. But reality doesn’t bear this out. What problem am I talking about; the increasing number of people who are turning into blithering idiots.  People who cannot even make a change while performing their summer jobs, young people who don’t know how to give directions to their own home, folks who are clueless as to who is running their city, state, or country, much less the rest of the world.

This conclusion is not just the result of educational testing and tracking, and it’s not just the old Tonight Show ‘Jay Walking’ segments that used to make us laugh in a very sad way. No, it’s not what these young people are doing; it’s what they’re not doing.

Yet this crisis isn’t really generational. All eighteen-year-olds are not stupid, nor are all 24 or 30-year-olds. There are millions of young adults who are motivated, educated and knowledgeable about the world around them. There are millions of young men and women who have graduated from the nation’s universities, high schools, tech schools,  and art programs. These same young people had grandparents that were farmers, blue collar workers and immigrants just two generations ago. Yet this disparity we now see; there is a new upper middle class, super-imposed over a new generation of intellectual poverty. Though I don’t believe is generational. It’s channelization.

Bill Gates, one of the early evangelists of channelization saw the Internet and the web media player as an opportunity to provide more choice for viewers and listeners. No longer would we have to sit in front of the television at precisely 6 p.m. to watch the national news from one of the three or four very similar networks. With the adoption of the Internet and the World Wide Web, media software from Microsoft, Real Networks, YouTube and others soon opened the floodgates of information: news and entertainment any time of day, any game, song or program you want, anywhere you want it. You’ll no longer be shackled to the living room, in front of your spouse, parents, and siblings, you learn, listen or watch what you want when you want, or not- and no one will forever know.
For better and worse all this has come to pass and more.

Newspapers are quietly disappearing while blogs celebrating the tiniest of niches curating curious aggregates of curiosity or dustbins of mental clutter.  With our Bluetooth headsets, we can now choose which world we want to live in and ignore the rest. Whether this will be to our peril we have yet to know, but somehow a world full of complacent, slightly educated people who are easily entertained by a few clicks, tweets and pokes, doesn’t bode well for our future.  When adults are distracted, children can do real damage.

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