The hall exploded with teenagers rushing to their lockers as the 3:30 bell rang.
Jan grabbed her books, stuffed them in her backpack and hurried out the door of her Social Studies classroom. She looked down the hall trying to spot her best friend, Mary.
“Hey, Jan, wait for me!” Jan waited for her friend to catch up.
“What’s wrong? You look frustrated,” said Mary.
“I’m more than frustrated. You’ll never guess what Mr. Riley gave us for our semester assignment. I can’t believe he’s going to count it as half our grade.”
“Well, tell me,” urged Mary. “You’re usually pretty cool about homework.”
The girls reached their lockers and twirled their combination locks. “He wants us to view reruns of old TV programs.” Jan flipped open her notebook and grabbed a sheet of paper. “Here, take a look at this list of TV shows.”
Mary glanced down the list. ‘Wow! Most of these are really old programs!”
“Right! We’re to analyze the message they give to the public, and how the characters interact with each other,” Jan said as she put on her green jacket.
Mary grinned. “That doesn’t sound so bad to me. In fact, I think it would be fun.”
“Oh yeah? Well get this! We’re to write a 3,000 word report explaining our findings,” explained Jan slamming her locker shut. “We have to explain how these programs affect our culture, and see if what we’ve learned will change the choice of what we will watch in the future. Yikes! It’ll be next semester before I’ll have time to go on a date.”
Mary put her hand on her friends arm. “Don’t worry so much, Jan.”
As the girls started toward the front door, she said, “Hey, I just remembered something. My parents have a DVD collection of old TV series. If you want, I will ask them if you can borrow some.”
Jan grinned. “Yes, I’d really appreciate it. Those DVDs will be a time-saver. You’re a great friend.”
Jan spent much of her evenings and Saturdays watching the TV programs she chose, and her notes filled a small notebook. She began to understand why Mr. Riley had assigned the project.
When Jan finished her report, she was pleased with the results.
“Is this the day you to give your report to the class?” asked Mary as she opened her locker.
“Yeah!” said Jan. “I sure don’t like giving reports.”
“But you know something, Mary? I learned a lot about what life was like during the early days of TV. The family was respected more than it is now.” Jan took some books from her locker. “TV shows today aren’t about traditional families. They show situations involving divorce, drugs and sleeping around – even homosexuality.”
“So what?” asked Mary. “Time changes how we act and what we think is wrong.”
The five-minute warning bell rang. “I’ll talk to you after school,” Jan said as the two girls parted and rushed to their classes.
Mr. Riley waited until everyone was seated. “Today will be the first day of verbal reports on the assignment I gave you for one-half of your semester grade. Do I have a volunteer?”
It’s better to get it over with on the first day, thought Jan as she raised her hand.
Mr. Riley smiled. “Looks like Jan is ready to give her report.”
She went to the front and stood behind the small lectern. “When Mr. Riley gave this assignment, I was upset. It not only sounded boring, but the time involved cut into my social life.” Giggles rippled through the classroom. Jan relaxed a little and named the TV series she chose to analyze. She went through the different points bringing out that with each era of time, the programming got less respectful of families and more sexual in content.
Jan paused, surprised to see that everyone appeared to be paying close attention. “More divorce situations and sexual content have increased through the years. Now, shows with homosexual relationships are common,” she said. “Abortion, drugs, alcohol and violence were shown by the 70’s and continued to increase with each new programming season.”
What We Watch Has Influence
She continued to comment on the points Mr. Riley had asked them to review. She turned the last page of her notes. “I have to admit that now I can understand why my parents are upset over some of the programs I like to watch. It doesn’t mean I want to watch these oldies all of the time, but I see how much we’ve lost in family values. Why, some of the older programs even showed families going to church together.” Jan paused as several boys let out exaggerated yawns.
“I feel uncomfortable watching programs that tell me it’s okay to do whatever I want and whenever I want. I wish there were more programming about families staying together, supporting each other, and practicing a moral life,” said Jan. “I don’t like seeing the programs today where people’s conversations have sexual overtones, where they sleep around and cheat on their spouses.”
“Will this project change what I watch on TV? Yes, it will,” explained Jan. “And not just TV, but movies as well. I’m convinced that what we view, whether it’s on TV, the movies, or what we read, has an influence on our thoughts and actions. I am the one that has to choose what kind of message I’m feeding my brain, and I’m going to make better choices.”
Jan walked back to her seat with peace in her heart.