Let them eat C-Span

Stephen Roberts

July 23, 1993|By Stephen Roberts

THE CURRENT, superheated debate on TV violence that now has networks agreeing to add parental advisories at the beginning of potentially offensive programming may be a mere tempest in a teapot.

For instance, what about cartoons? Why won't violent cartoons also require a warning to parents? What about jeans commercials? And so on.

Well, the short answer to these problems is that children, if "trained" early, won't be drawn to violent TV programs of any sort. And when this early training "takes," they'll be among the best informed and most civicly active folks in the republic.

An example? Sure. The kids who visit my house are allowed to watch as much TV as their little hearts desire -- but with one essential proviso: They must always watch C-Span.

You might wonder: Is C-Span appropriate material for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds? The answer is "yes," absolutely. Consider the advantages. Even if children do not understand anything about a bill that's being debated in the House or the Senate, the little tykes quickly learn that all of life isn't about getting quick-fix thrills.

Sure, if the focus is, say, a proposed lumber subsidy that would chiefly affect the Northwest, young ones from other parts of the countrymight find it a bit boring. But think of the obvious advantages: these children are precociously introduced to the necessity of having plenty of patience, a virtue they can use throughout their lives.

The point, is, of course, that there's absolutely no violence on C-Span. And no gratuitous sex. Sure, some wiseacres and cheap-joke artists might contend that there's all too little passion of any sort on C-Span. But let them have their nasty, unproductive fun.

Are there any disadvantages to exposing young children to C-Span? None at all. In fact, my nephew, who has been given a steady diet of C-Span, now knows the name of Brian Lamb, a C-Span commentator and host of "Booknotes."

I'm weaning this lad away from what was a too-consuming

fascination with sports stars and expensive athletic shoes, so I regularly make up fictitious stories about Brian Lamb that prove entertaining.

The upshot is, as far as children are concerned, C-Span is a wonderful mediation between standard violent TV and no TV at all. It's a foolproof measure, and kids will eventually take to it and even prefer it to the jazzed-up stuff that otherwise fills their little minds. Just be sure to start them very, very young.

Stephen Roberts writes from Clinton, New York.

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