This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, August 29, 1990

August 29, 1990 - No TV

A couple of years ago, shortly after my wife, daughter and I moved into our first house, I made a bold decision. We were going to put the TV in the basement. Our new (upstairs) living room was bright, warm and cozy. I just knew it would be the perfect place to have stimulating conversations, read aloud to one another, and roll around on the floor with our daughter Maddy. Who'd have time for television? I got so excited by the prospect, I went one step further. We cancelled our cable subscription.

And by God, we did it. We put the TV in the basement.

It stayed there two days.

How can I explain this? The reception wasn't very good in the basement. There was a great documentary on one night. Everybody knows you should watch PeeWee's Playhouse in your pj's, and it was just too cool in the basement. For Maddy, I mean.

You get the picture. Or did the picture get us?

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I spend whole evenings camped out in front of the tube. I hardly move a muscle or change a channel. On such nights not only do I not get anything useful accomplished, I can't say as I feel all that relaxed afterward. If anything, I'm restless, irritable, depressed.

If this sounds familiar to you, probably you've suffered similar pangs of embarrassment. But it's not until you catch your child staring at the flickering screen with the same slack-jawed mindlessness as her parents that you truly feel the stab of raw guilt.

Let's face it. America is in real danger of becoming a nation of "vidiots."

When I lived in Greeley, I worked with local schools to sponsor two "TV Turn-Off" weeks. Kids (and their parents) had to take the pledge: absolutely no television for a week. No news. No Saturday morning cartoons. No Nintendo. No mini-series or soap operas.

We got a thousand people signed up the first year. The second year, two thousand kids and parents signed up.

How well did it work? Adults said they were surprised how much time they had all of a sudden. Teachers said they noticed that the children were a lot less violent, and that they listened better. Young students said they read more books and spent more time with their families.

And when the week was up...everybody went back to watching television.

Well, on September 1, 1990, KCNC-TV (an NBC affiliate) is going to do something no television station has done before. According to their press release, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. the station "will air no program and no commercials for a half hour." Instead, KCNC will show (in both English and Spanish) some information about adult literacy and children's reading programs. They'll also give the phone number of the Colorado Literacy Hotline. Volunteers will be waiting at the Colorado Literacy Assistance Center. (The numbers, incidentally, are 894-0555 in the Denver area and 1-800-367-5555 for callers outside Denver.)

So on September 1, why not take a break from your regularly scheduled programming? Why not...read a book?

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