1. The End of Education by Neil Postman
    ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 197 pages
  2. The Disappearence of Childhood by Neil Postman
    ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 176 pages
  3. Technopoly by Neil Postman
    ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 222 pages
  4. Conscientious Objections by Neil Postman
    ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 201 pages
  5. Building a Bridge to the 18th Century by Neil Postman
    ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 224 pages
  6. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
    ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 208 pages
  1. As Xenophanes remarked twenty-five centuries ago, men always make their gods in their own image. But to this, television politics has added a new wrinkle: Those who would be gods refashion themselves into images the viewers would have them be.
    Neil Postman
  2. It is an argument that fixes its attention on the forms of human conversation, and postulates that how we are obliged to conduct such conversations will have the strongest possible influence on what ideas we can conveniently express. And what ideas are convenient to express inevitably become the important content of a culture.
    Neil Postman
  3. The principal strength of the telegraph was its capacity to move information, not collect it, explain it or analyze it. In this respect, telegraphy was the exact opposite of typography. Books, for example, are an excellent container for the accumulation, quiet scrutiny and organized analysis of information and ideas. It takes time to write a book, and to read one; time to discuss its contents and to make judgments about their merit, including the form of their presentation. A book is an attempt to make thought permanent and to contribute to the great conversation conducted by authors of the past. Therefore, civilized people everywhere consider the burning of a book a vile form of anti-intellectualism. But the telegraph demands that we burn its contents. The value of telegraphy is undermined by applying the tests of permanence, continuity or coherence. The telegraph is suited only to the flashing of messages, each to be quickly replaced by a more up-to-date message. Facts push other facts into and then out of consciousness at speeds that neither permit nor require evaluation.
    Neil Postman
  4. That is why even on news shows which provide us daily with fragments of tragedy and barbarism, we are urged by the newscasters to “join them tomorrow.” What for?
    Neil Postman
  5. … the clearest way to see through a culture is to attend to its tools for conversation.
    Neil Postman
  6. Although the Bible makes no mention of it, the Reverend Graham assured the audience that God loves those who make people laugh. It was an honest mistake. He merely mistook NBC for God.
    Neil Postman
  7. What the advertiser needs to know is not what is right about the product but what is wrong about the buyer. And so, the balance of business expenditures shifts from product research to market research.
    Neil Postman
  8. Thus, a central thesis of computer technology—that the principal difficulty we have in solving problems stems from insufficient data—will go unexamined. Until, years from now, when it will be noticed that the massive collection and speed-of-light retrieval of data have been of great value to large-scale organizations but have solved very little of importance to most people and have created at least as many problems for them as they may have solved.
    Neil Postman
  9. We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another—slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.
    Neil Postman
  10. There is no great religious leader—from the Buddha to Moses to Jesus to Mohammed to Luther—who offered people what they want. Only what they need. But television is not well suited to offering people what they need. It is “user friendly.”
    Neil Postman
  11. For example, it would have been excusable in 1905 for us to be unprepared for the cultural changes the automobile would bring. Who could have suspected then that the automobile would tell us how we were to conduct our social and sexual lives? Would reorient our ideas about what to do with our forests and cities? Would create new ways of expressing our personal identity and social standing?
    Neil Postman
  12. Just as a television commercial will use an athlete, an actor, a musician, a novelist, a scientist or a countess to speak for the virtues of a product in no way within their domain of expertise, television also frees politicians from the limited field of their own expertise. Political figures may show up anywhere, at any time, doing anything, without being thought odd, presumptuous, or in any way out of place. Which is to say, they have become assimilated into the general television culture as celebrities.
    Neil Postman
  13. Each medium, like language itself, makes possible a unique mode of discourse by providing a new orientation for thought, for expression, for sensibility.
    Neil Postman
  14. It may be of some interest to note, in this connection, that the crossword puzzle became a popular form of diversion in America at just that point when the telegraph and the photograph had achieved the transformation of news from functional information to decontextualized fact. This coincidence suggests that the new technologies had turned the age-old problem of information on its head: Where people once sought information to manage the real contexts of their lives, now they had to invent contexts in which otherwise useless information might be put to some apparent use. The crossword puzzle is one such pseudo-context; the cocktail party is another; the radio quiz shows of the 1930’s and 1940’s and the modern television game show are still others; and the ultimate, perhaps, is the wildly successful “Trivial Pursuit.” In one form or another, each of these supplies an answer to the question, “What am I to do with all these disconnected facts?” And in one form or another, the, answer is the same: Why not use them for diversion? for entertainment? to amuse yourself, in a game?
    Neil Postman
  15. Advertising was, as Stephen Douglas said in another context, intended to appeal to understanding, not to passions.
    Neil Postman
  16. “What do you mean when you say … ?” or “From what sources does your information come?” This type of discourse not only slows down the tempo of the show but creates the impression of uncertainty or lack of finish. It tends to reveal people in theact of thinking, which is as disconcerting and boring on television as it is on a Las Vegas stage.
    Neil Postman
  17. “The clock,” Mumford has concluded, “is a piece of power machinery whose ‘product’ is seconds and minutes.” In manufacturing such a product, the clock has the effect of disassociating time from human events and thus nourishes the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences. Moment to moment, it turns out, is not God’s conception, or nature’s. It is man conversing with himself about and through a piece of machinery he created.
    Neil Postman
  18. … as Mumford points out, with the invention of the clock, Eternity ceased to serve as the measure and focus of human events.
    Neil Postman
  19. If politics is like show business, then the idea is not to pursue excellence, clarity or honesty but to appear as if you are, which is another matter altogether.
    Neil Postman
  20. “We Americans seem to know everything about the last twenty-four hours but very little of the last sixty centuries or the last sixty years.” Terence Moran, I believe, lands on the target in saying that with media whose structure is biased toward furnishing images and fragments, we are deprived of access to an historical perspective. In the absence of continuity and context, he says, “bits of information cannot be integrated into an intelligent and consistent whole.”
    Neil Postman
  21. It is naive to suppose that something that has been expressed in one form can be expressed in another without significantly changing its meaning, texture or value. Much prose translates fairly well from one language to another, but we know that poetry does not; we may get a rough idea of the sense of a translated poem but usually everything else is lost, especially that which makes it an object of beauty. The translation makes it into something it was not. To take another example: We may find it convenient to send a condolence card to a bereaved friend, but we delude ourselves if we believe that our card conveys the same meaning as our broken and whispered words when we are present. The card not only changes the words but eliminates the context from which the words take their meaning. Similarly, we delude ourselves if we believe that most everything a teacher normally does can be replicated with greater efficiency by a micro-computer. Perhaps some things can, but there is always the question, What is lost in the translation? The answer may even be: Everything that is significant about education.
    Neil Postman
  22. But the Founding Fathers did not foresee that tyranny by government might be superseded by another sort of problem altogether, namely, the corporate state, which through television now controls the flow of public discourse in America.
    Neil Postman
  23. But what is happening in America is not the design of an articulated ideology. No Mein Kampf or Communist Manifesto announced its coming. It comes as the unintended consequence of a dramatic change in our modes of public conversation. But it is an ideology nonetheless, for it imposes a way of life, a set of relations among people and ideas, about which there has been no consensus, no discussion and no opposition. Only compliance. Public consciousness has not yet assimilated the point that technology is ideology.
    Neil Postman
  24. The God of the Jews was to exist in the Word and through the Word, an unprecedented conception requiring the highest order of abstract thinking.
    Neil Postman
  25. Both the history and the ever-present possibilities of the television screen work against the idea that introspection or spiritual transcendence is desirable in its presence. The television screen wants you to remember that its imagery is always available for your amusement and pleasure.
    Neil Postman
  26. … that television’s conversations promote incoherence and triviality; that the phrase “serious television” is a contradiction in terms; and that television speaks in only one persistent voice—the voice of entertainment. Beyond that, I will try to demonstrate that to enter the great television conversation, one American cultural institution after another is learning to speak its terms. Television, in other words, is transforming our culture into one vast arena for show business. It is entirely possible, of course, that in the end we shall find that delightful, and decide we like it just fine. That is exactly what Aldous Huxley feared was coming, fifty years ago.
    Neil Postman
  27. But what I am claiming here is not that television is entertaining but that it has made entertainment itself the natural format for the representation of all experience.
    Neil Postman
  28. There is no more disturbing consequence of the electronic and graphic revolution than this: that the world as given to us through television seems natural, not bizarre.
    Neil Postman
  29. Moreover, television offers viewers a variety of subject matter, requires minimal skills to comprehend it, and is largely aimed at emotional gratification.
    Neil Postman
  30. The commandments are as follows:

    Thou shalt have no prerequisites

    Every television program must be a complete package in itself. No previous knowledge is to be required. There must not be even a hint that learning is hierarchical, that it is an edifice constructed on a foundation. The learner must be allowed to enter at any point without prejudice. This is why you shall never hear or see a television program begin with the caution that if the viewer has not seen the previous programs, this one will be meaningless. Television is a nongraded curriculum and excludes no viewer for any reason, at any time. In other words, in doing away with the idea of sequence and continuity in education, television undermines the idea that sequence and continuity have anything to do with thought itself.

    Thou shalt induce no perplexity

    In television teaching, perplexity is a superhighway to low ratings. A perplexed learner is a learner who will turn to another station. This means that there must be nothing that has to be remembered, studied, applied or, worst of all, endured. It is assumed that any information, story or idea can be made immediately accessible, since the contentment, not the growth, of the learner is paramount.

    Thou shalt avoid exposition like the ten plagues visited upon Egypt

    Of all the enemies of television-teaching, including continuity and perplexity, none is more formidable than exposition. Arguments, hypotheses, discussions, reasons, refutations or any of the traditional instruments of reasoned discourse turn television into radio or, worse, third-rate printed matter. Thus, television-teaching always takes the form of story-telling, conducted through dynamic images and supported by music. This is as characteristic of “Star Trek” as it is of “Cosmos,” of “Different Strokes” as of “Sesame Street,” of commercials as of “Nova.” Nothing will be taught on television that cannot be both visualized and placed in a theatrical context. The name we may properly give to an education without prerequisites, perplexity and exposition is entertainment.

    Neil Postman
  31. Cultures without speed-of-light media—let us say, cultures in which smoke signals are the most efficient space-conquering tool available—do not have news of the day. Without a medium to create its form, the news of the day does not exist.
    Neil Postman
  32. All of this has occurred simultaneously with the decline of America’s moral and political prestige, worldwide. American television programs are in demand not because America is loved but because American television is loved.
    Neil Postman
  33. For example, a person who has seen one million television commercials might well believe that all political problems have fast solutions through simple measures—or ought to.
    Neil Postman
  34. …this book is an inquiry into and a lamentation about the most significant American cultural fact of the second half of the twentieth century: the decline of the Age of Typography and the ascendancy of the Age of Television. This change-over has dramatically and irreversibly shifted the content and meaning of public discourse, since two media so vastly different cannot accommodate the same ideas. As the influence of print wanes, the content of politics, religion, education, and anything else that comprises public business must change and be recast in terms that are most suitable to television.
    Neil Postman
  35. One may also assume that what is called “computer literacy” does not involve raising questions about the cognitive biases and social effects of the computer, which, I would venture, are the most important questions to address about new technologies.
    Neil Postman
  36. Walter Lippmann, for example, wrote in 1920: “There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies.” For all of his pessimism about the possibilities of restoring an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century level of public discourse, Lippmann assumed, as did Thomas Jefferson before him, that with a well-trained press functioning as a lie-detector, the public’s interest in a President’s mangling of the truth would be piqued, in both senses of that word. Given the means to detect lies, he believed, the public could not be indifferent to their consequences.
    Neil Postman
  37. The historian Carl Schorske has, in my opinion, circled closer to the truth by noting that the modern mind has grown indifferent to history because history has become useless to it; in other words, it is not obstinacy or ignorance but a sense of irrelevance that leads to the diminution of history.
    Neil Postman
  38. …the major educational enterprise now being undertaken in the United States is not happening in its classrooms but in the home, in front of the television set, and under the jurisdiction not of school administrators and teachers but of network executives and entertainers. I don’t mean to imply that the situation is a result of a conspiracy or even that those who control television want this responsibility. I mean only to say that, like the alphabet or the printing press, television has by its power to control the time, attention and cognitive habits of our youth gained the power to control their education. This is why I think it accurate to call television a curriculum. As I understand the word, a curriculum is a specially constructed information system whose purpose is to influence, teach, train or cultivate the mind and character of youth. Television, of course, does exactly that, and does it relentlessly. In so doing, it competes successfully with the school curriculum. By which I mean, it damn near obliterates it.
    Neil Postman
  39. There are two ways by which the spirit of a culture may be shriveled. In the first—the Orwellian—culture becomes a prison. In the second—the Huxleyan—culture becomes a burlesque.
    Neil Postman
  40. … our tools for thought suggest to us what our bodies are like, as when someone refers to her “biological clock,” or when we talk of our “genetic codes,” or when we read someone’s face like a book, or when our facial expressions telegraph our intentions.
    Neil Postman
  41. In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours.
    Neil Postman
  42. To the telegraph, intelligence meant knowing of lots of things, not knowing about them.
    Neil Postman
  43. … the concept of truth is intimately linked to the biases of forms of expression.
    Neil Postman
  44. … a more significant legacy of the telegraph and the photograph may be the pseudo-context. A pseudo-context is a structure invented to give fragmented and irrelevant information a seeming use. But the use the pseudo-context provides is not action, or problem-solving, or change. It is the only use left for information with no genuine connection to our lives. And that, of course, is to amuse. The pseudo-context is the last refuge, so to say, of a culture overwhelmed by irrelevance, incoherence, and impotence.
    Neil Postman
  45. An American who has reached the age of forty will have seen well over one million television commercials in his or her lifetime, and has close to another million to go before the first Social Security check arrives.
    Neil Postman
  46. … telegraphy did something that Morse did not foresee when he prophesied that telegraphy would make “one neighborhood of the whole country.” It destroyed the prevailing definition of information, and in doing so gave a new meaning to public discourse. Among the few who understood this consequence was Henry David Thoreau, who remarked in Walden that “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate…. We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.”
    Neil Postman
  47. For in the end, he was trying to tell us that what afflicted the people in Brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.
    Neil Postman
  48. … capitalism, like science and liberal democracy, was an outgrowth of the Enlightenment. Its principal theorists, even its most prosperous practitioners, believed capitalism to be based on the idea that both buyer and seller are sufficiently mature, well informed and reasonable to engage in transactions of mutual self-interest.
    Neil Postman
  49. … we do not measure a culture by its output of undisguised trivialities but by what it claims as significant. Therein is our problem, for television is at its most trivial and, therefore, most dangerous when its aspirations are high, when it presents itself as a carrier of important cultural conversations.
    Neil Postman
  50. In watching American television, one is reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s remark on his first seeing the glittering neon signs of Broadway and 42nd Street at night. It must be beautiful, he said, if you cannot read.
    Neil Postman
  51. It has been demonstrated many times that a culture can survive misinformation and false opinion. It has not yet been demonstrated whether a culture can survive if it takes the measure of the world in twenty-two minutes. Or if the value of its news is determined by the number of laughs it provides.
    Neil Postman
  52. Typography assisted in the growth of the nation-state but thereby made patriotism into a sordid if not lethal emotion.
    Neil Postman
  53. I wondered then, as so many others have, as to why the God of these people would have included instructions on how they were to symbolize, or not symbolize, their experience. It is a strange injunction to include as part of an ethical system unless its author assumed a connection between forms of human communication and the quality of a culture.
    Neil Postman
  54. As other newspapers join in the transformation, the time cannot be far off when awards will be given for the best investigative sentence.
    Neil Postman
  55. As I suggested earlier, it is implausible to imagine that anyone like our twenty-seventh President, the multi-chinned, three-hundred-pound William Howard Taft, could be put forward as a presidential candidate in today’s world. The shape of a man’s body is largely irrelevant to the shape of his ideas when he is addressing a public in writing or on the radio or, for that matter, in smoke signals. But it is quite relevant on television. The grossness of a three-hundred-pound image, even a talking one, would easily overwhelm any logical or spiritual subtleties conveyed by speech. For on television, discourse is conducted largely through visual imagery, which is to say that television gives us a conversation in images, not words. The emergence of the image-manager in the political arena and the concomitant decline of the speech writer attest to the fact that television demands a different kind of content from other media. You cannot do political philosophy on television. Its form works against the content.
    Neil Postman
  56. By endowing things with magic, enchantment is the means through which we may gain access to sacredness. Entertainment is the means through which we distance ourselves from it.
    Neil Postman
  57. What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East? Or the rates of inflation, crime and unemployment? What are your plans for preserving the environment or reducing the risk of nuclear war? What do you plan to do about NATO, OPEC, the CIA, affirmative action, and the monstrous treatment of the Baha’is in Iran? I shall take the liberty of answering for you: You plan to do nothing about them. You may, of course, cast a ballot for someone who claims to have some plans, as well as the power to act. But this you can do only once every two or four years by giving one hour of your time, hardly a satisfying means of expressing the broad range of opinions you hold. Voting, we might even say, is the next to last refuge of the politically impotent. The last refuge is, of course, giving your opinion to a pollster, who will get a version of it through a desiccated question, and then will submerge it in a Niagara of similar opinions, and convert them into—what else?—another piece of news. Thus, we have here a great loop of impotence: The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing.
    Neil Postman
  58. In a peculiar way, the photograph was the perfect complement to the flood of telegraphic news-from-nowhere that threatened to submerge readers in a sea of facts from unknown places about strangers with unknown faces. For the photograph gave a concrete reality to the strange-sounding datelines, and attached faces to the unknown names. Thus it provided the illusion, at least, that “the news” had a connection to something within one’s sensory experience. It created an apparent context for the “news of the day.” And the “news of the day” created a context for the photograph.
    Neil Postman
  59. And our languages are our media. Our media are our metaphors. Our metaphors create the content of our culture.
    Neil Postman
  60. America is, in fact, the leading case in point of what may be thought of as the third great crisis in Western education. The first occurred in the fifth century B.C., when Athens underwent a change from an oral culture to an alphabet-writing culture. To understand what this meant, we must read Plato. The second occurred in the sixteenth century, when Europe underwent a radical transformation as a result of the printing press. To understand what this meant, we must read John Locke. The third is happening now, in America, as a result of the electronic revolution, particularly the invention of television. To understand what this means, we must read Marshall McLuhan.
    Neil Postman
  61. An Orwellian world is much easier to recognize, and to oppose, than a Huxleyan. Everything in our background has prepared us to know and resist a prison when the gates begin to close around us. We are not likely, for example, to be indifferent to the voices of the Sakharovs and the Timmermans and the Walesas. We take arms against such a sea of troubles, buttressed by the spirit of Milton, Bacon, Voltaire, Goethe and Jefferson. But what if there are no cries of anguish to be heard? Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements? To whom do we complain, and when, and in what tone of voice, when serious discourse dissolves into giggles? What is the antidote to a culture’s being drained by laughter?
    Neil Postman
  62. I believe, a wise and particularly relevant supposition that the media of communication available to a culture are a dominant influence on the formation of the culture’s intellectual and social preoccupations.
    Neil Postman
  63. … ensemble of electronic techniques called into being a new world—a peek-a-boo world, where now this event, now that, pops into view for a moment, then vanishes again. It is a world without much coherence or sense; a world that does not ask us, indeed, does not permit us to do anything; a world that is, like the child’s game of peek-a-boo, entirely self-contained. But like peek-a-boo, it is also endlessly entertaining.
    Neil Postman
  64. Tyrants of all varieties have always known about the value of providing the masses with amusements as a means of pacifying discontent. But most of them could not have even hoped for a situation in which the masses would ignore that which does not amuse. That is why tyrants have always relied, and still do, on censorship. Censorship, after all, is the tribute tyrants pay to the assumption that a public knows the difference between serious discourse and entertainment—and cares. How delighted would be all the kings, czars and führers of the past (and commissars of the present) to know that censorship is not a necessity when all political discourse takes the form of a jest.
    Neil Postman
  65. Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.
    Neil Postman
  66. Think of Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter or Billy Graham, or even Albert Einstein, and what will come to your mind is an image, a picture of a face, most likely a face on a television screen (in Einstein’s case, a photograph of a face). Of words, almost nothing will come to mind. This is the difference between thinking in a word-centered culture and thinking in an image-centered culture.
    Neil Postman
  67. … the idea that the value of information need not be tied to any function it might serve in social and political decision-making and action, but may attach merely to its novelty, interest, and curiosity. The telegraph made information into a commodity, a “thing” that could be bought and sold irrespective of its uses or meaning.
    Neil Postman
  68. By substituting images for claims, the pictorial commercial made emotional appeal, not tests of truth, the basis of consumer decisions.
    Neil Postman
  69. A sixty-second commercial is prolix; thirty seconds is longer than most; fifteen to twenty seconds is about average. This is a brash and startling structure for communication since, as I remarked earlier, the commercial always addresses itself to the psychological needs of the viewer. Thus it is not merely therapy. It is instant therapy. Indeed, it puts forward a psychological theory of unique axioms: The commercial asks us to believe that all problems are solvable, that they are solvable fast, and that they are solvable fast through the interventions of technology, techniques and chemistry. This is, of course, a preposterous theory about the roots of discontent, and would appear so to anyone hearing or reading it.
    Neil Postman
  70. We are all, as Huxley says someplace, Great Abbreviators, meaning that none of us has the wit to know the whole truth, the time to tell it if we believed we did, or an audience so gullible as to accept it.
    Neil Postman
  71. The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining, which is another issue altogether.
    Neil Postman
  72. For most of us, news of the weather will sometimes have such consequences ; for investors, news of the stock market; perhaps an occasional story about a crime will do it, if by chance the crime occurred near where you live or involved someone you know. But most of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action. This fact is the principal legacy of the telegraph: By generating an abundance of irrelevant information, it dramatically altered what may be called the “information-action ratio.”
    Neil Postman
  73. … photograph presents the world as object; language, the world as idea.
    Neil Postman
  74. But ventriloquism, dancing and mime do not play well on radio, just as sustained, complex talk does not play well on television.
    Neil Postman
  75. Politics, he tells him, is the greatest spectator sport in America. In 1966, Ronald Reagan used a different metaphor. “Politics,” he said, “is just like show business.”
    Neil Postman
  76. I should go so far as to say that embedded in the surrealistic frame of a television news show is a theory of anti-communication, featuring a type of discourse that abandons logic, reason, sequence and rules of contradiction. In aesthetics, I believe the name given to this theory is Dadaism; in philosophy, nihilism; in psychiatry, schizophrenia. In the parlance of the theater, it is known as vaudeville.
    Neil Postman
  77. It was not long until the fortunes of newspapers came to depend not on the quality or utility of the news they provided, but on how much, from what distances, and at what speed. James Bennett of the New York Herald boasted that in the first week of 1848, his paper contained 79,000 words of telegraphic content —of what relevance to his readers, he didn’t say. Only four years after Morse opened the nation’s first telegraph line on May 24, 1844, the Associated Press was founded, and news from nowhere, addressed to no one in particular, began to criss-cross the nation. Wars, crimes, crashes, fires, floods—much of it the social and political equivalent of Adelaide’s whooping cough—became the content of what people called “the news of the day.”
    Neil Postman
  78. If our schools are not working and democratic principles are losing their force, that has nothing to do with insufficient information.
    Neil Postman
  79. In the nineteenth century, Nietzsche put the matter in a brutal light by arguing that reason is a kind of linguistic illusion, that good and evil, are equally, illusionary, and there is nothing but one’s will and power to realize one’s will. In other words, there is no difference between the sentences “I want to do this” and “I have a right to do this”.
    Neil Postman
  80. The Internet is not a “truth” medium, it is an information medium.
    Neil Postman
  81. Think, for example, of how words “community” and “conversation” are now employed by those who use the Internet. I have the impression that “community” is now used to mean, simply, people with similar interests, a considerable change from an older meaning: A community is made up if people which may not have similar interests but who must negotiate and resolve their differences for the sake of social harmony… As to “conversation”, two (or more) people typing messages to each other are engaged in activity quite different from what is usually called a conversation.
    Neil Postman
  82. These ideas - that people create meanings by the names they use, and we are free to rejects the names that are given - are central to language education, and are one’s principal source of defense against a culture in which propaganda is the largest industry.
    Neil Postman
  83. We need technology to live, as we need food to live. But, of course, if we eat too much food, or eat food that has no nutritional value, or eat food that is infected with disease, we turn a means of survival into its opposite. The same may be said of our technology. Not a single philosopher would dispute that technology may be life-enhancing or life-diminishing. Common sense commands us to ask, Which is it?
    Neil Postman
  84. Childhood was invented in the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth, it began to assume the form with which we are familiar. In the twentieth century, childhood began to unravel, and by the twenty first, may be lost altogether - unless there is some serious interest in retaining it.
    Neil Postman
  85. We have been left with the idea that progress is neither natural nor embedded in the structure of history; that is to say, it is not nature’s business or history. It is our business. No one believes, or perhaps ever will again, that history itself is moving inexorably toward a golden age (Editor: it seem that this idea is already partly forgotten, mostly because of our ignorance). The idea that we must make our own future, bend history to our own will, is, of course, frightening and captures the sense of Nietzsche’s ominous remark that God is dead. We have all become existentialists, which lays upon us responsibilities that once were shared by God and history.
    Neil Postman
  86. What is there (Editor: XX century) to find - the principle of indeterminacy? Nietzsche’s arguments for the death of God? Freud’s insistence that reason is merely a servant of the genitalia? The idea that language is utterly incapable of providing accurate maps of reality?
    Neil Postman
  87. Knowledge is the quest, not a commodity; what we thing we know comes out of what we ones thought we knew; what we will know in the future may make a hash of what we now believe.
    Neil Postman
  88. Let us not turn to the eighteenth century in order to copy the institutions she fashioned for herself but in order that we may better understand what suits us. Let us look there for instructions rather than models. Let us adopt principles rather than details.
    Neil Postman
  89. To forget our mistakes is bad. But to forget our successes may be worth.
    Neil Postman
  90. Bacon is the first to claim that the principle end of scientific work was to advance the “happiness of mankind”. He continually criticized his predecessors for failing to understand that the real, legitimate, and only goal of the sciences is the “endowment of human life with new inventions and riches”.
    Neil Postman
  91. Whatever else we bring into the new century, we will certainly feature the greatest array of propagandistic techniques in the history of humankind.
    Neil Postman
  92. Information was not thought of as a commodity to be sold. It had no separate existence, as it does in our age, specifically, it was not thought to be worthwhile unless it was embedded in a context, unless it gave shape, texture, or authority to a political, social, or scientific concept, which itself was required to fit into some world-view.
    Neil Postman
  93. “Radical historicism” claims that there are no ultimate truths, especially moral truths: that there is no transcendent authority to which we may appeal for a final answer to a question, Is this right or wrong thing to do?
    Neil Postman
  94. “In Defense of Poetry”, he (Editor: Perry Shelley) made the arguments that explained why Reason itself was insufficient to produce humane progress. Indeed, when science and technology claim to provide ethical imperatives, we are lead into moral catastrophe… It is only through love, tenderness, and beauty, he wrote, that the mind is made receptive to the moral decency, and poetry is the means by which love, tenderness, and beat are best cultivated. It is the poetic imagination, not scientific accomplishment, that is the engine of moral progress… Thus, the “heaven city” that the eighteenth-century rationalists dreamed of is not reachable through reason alone… Progress is the business of the heart, not the intellect.
    Neil Postman
  95. Children are neither black tablets nor budding plants. They are markets; that is to say, consumers whose needs for products roughly the same as the needs of adults… The point is that childhood, if it can be said to exist at all, is now an economic category. There is very little the culture wants to do for their children except to make them into consumers.
    Neil Postman
  96. One did not give information to make another “informed”. One gave information to make another do something or feel something, and the doing and feeling were themselves part of a larger idea. Information was rhetorical instrument, and this idea did not greatly change until the mid-nineteenth century.
    Neil Postman
  97. Was it inevitable that by 1995 American children would be watching 5,000 hours of television before entering the first grade, 19,000 hours by high school’s end, and by age twenty would have seen 600,000 television commercials?
    Neil Postman
  98. Technology, as Paul Goodman once remarked, is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science; which suggests that advise that comes from people who have little or no philosophical perspective is likely to be arid if not dangerous.
    Neil Postman
  99. As we proceed into a postmodern world, we are bereft of a narrative that can provide courage and optimism; we are facing what Václav Havel and others have called “a crisis in narrative”. Old gods have fallen, either wounded or dead. New ones have been aborted. “We are looking”, he said, “for the new scientific recipes, new ideologies, new control systems, new institutions”. In other words, we seeks new narratives to provide us with “an elementary sense of justice, the ability to see things as others do, a sense of transcendental responsibility, archetypal wisdom, good taste, courage, compassion, and faith”.
    Neil Postman
  100. It is enough to say that if Diderot, Adam Smith, and Jefferson had lived through, they could not possibly have believed in the friendly flow of history.
    Neil Postman
  101. I mean by wisdom the capacity to know what body of knowledge is relevant to the solution of significant problems. Knowledge is only organized information. It is self-contained, confined to a single system of information about the world. One can have a great deal of knowledge about the world but entirely lack wisdom. That is frequently the case with scientists, politicians, entrepreneurs, academics, even theologians.
    Neil Postman
  102. Skepticism is the principal legacy of the Enlightenment. There is nothing more profound to do than to carry that legacy forward by making and effort at conveying it to our young.
    Neil Postman
  103. Newspapers purpose, in general, was to create a cosmopolitan citizenship, informed about the best ideas and most recent knowledge of the time.
    Neil Postman
  104. These subjects are about the relationship between language and reality; they are about differences between kind of statements, about the nature of propaganda, about the ways in which we search for truths, and just about everything else one needs to know in order to use language in a disciplined way and to know when others aren’t.
    Neil Postman
  105. When one has knowledge, one knows how to relate information to one’s life, and, especially knows when information is irrelevant.
    Neil Postman
  106. I write for those who are still searching for a way to confront the future, a way that faces reality as it is, that is connected to a humane tradition, that provides sane authority and meaningful purpose… Where should we look for such a way? Well, of course, one turns first to the wisdom of the sages, both near and far. Marcus Aurelius said, “At every action, no matter by whom preferred, make it a practice to ask yourself, ‘What is his object in doing this?’ But begin with yourself; out this question to yourself first of all. ” Goethe told us, “One should, each day, try to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words.” Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living. ” Rabbi Hillel said, “What is hateful to thee, do not do to another.” The prophet Micah: “What does Lord require of thee but do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with The God.” And our own Henry David Thoreau said, “All our inventions are but improved means to an unimproved end.”
    Neil Postman
  107. What we may learn from these two great philosophers, Einstein and Mill, is what they learned from their predecessors - that it is necessary to live as if there is transcendent authority. “One can have the clearest and most complete knowledge of what is”, Einstein wrote, “and yet not be able to deduce from that what should be the goal of our human aspirations. Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievement of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and longing to reach it must come from another source”. The other source is religion. Neither Mill nor Einstein believed in the stories that give form and inspiration to traditional religious systems, what Mill called the “supernatural religions”. But both understood that we require a story that provides a basis for moral conduct and has a transcendent character. They found it in “natural law”, and in the capacities of “human nature”. In their stories, human beings have innate feelings for the general good and the unity of mankind. Mill called his story the Religion of Humanity. Einstein spoke of Cosmic Religious feeling. And they found the details of their moral code in sacred texts and history, as well as custom; that is to say, in our obligations to those whom we have judged to have acted in accord with the principles if human solidarity. Mill wrote: “… the thought that our dead parents or friends would have approved our conduct is scarcely less powerful motive than the knowledge that our living ones do approve it; and the idea that Socrates, or Howard, or Washington, or Antonius or Christ would have sympathized with us, or that we are attempting to do our part in the spirit in which they did theirs, has operated on the very best minds as strong incentive to act up to their highest feelings and convictions.” That there is a tendency as part of our nature toward our being “moral” - detesting wanton killing, honoring parents, caring for children, speaking truthfully, loving mercy, overcoming egotism, and all the other exhortations we find shared by sacred texts - is a legacy of Enlightenment. And that this tendency cannot be proven in a scientific manner but must be taken on faith is also a feature of that legacy. And that there can be no objection to one’s believing in a divine source for one’s moral grounding is yet another feature of the legacy, provided one does not claim absolute certainty for one’s belief.
    Neil Postman
  108. Information consists of statements about the facts of the world. Facts cannot be wrong. They are what they are. Statements about facts - that is, information - can be wrong and often are.
    Neil Postman
  109. I find it useful to ask of any technology that is marketed as indispensable, What problem does it solve for me? Will it advantages outweigh its disadvantages? Will it alter my habits and language, and if so, for better or worse? … I will use technology when I judge it to be in my favor to do so. I resist being used by it. In some cases I may have moral objections. But in most instances, my objection is practical, and reason tells me to measure the results from that point of view.
    Neil Postman
  110. Perhaps because of such psychic burden, we have held on to the idea that technological innovation is synonymous with moral, social, and psychic progress.
    Neil Postman
  111. I rather like imagining a time when, in addition to op-ed pages, we will have “wisdom pages”, filled with relevant questions about the stories that have been covered, questions directed at those who offer different bodies of knowledge from those which the stories themselves confront. I can even imagine a time when the news will be organized, not according to the standard format of local, regional, national, and world news, but according to some other organizing principle - for example, the seven deadly sins of greed, lust, envy, and so on.
    Neil Postman
  112. The change in the meaning of information was largely generated by invention of telegraphy and photography in the 1840s. Telegraphy, in particular, gave legitimacy to the idea of context-free information; that is, to the idea that the value of information need not be tied to any function it might server in social and political life. It may exist by itself, as a means of satisfying curiosity and offering novelty. The telegraph made information into a commodity, a “thing” desirable in itself, separate from its possible uses and meaning. In the process, telegraphy made public discourse essentially incoherent. It brought into being a world of broken time and broken attention, to use Mumford’s phrase. The principal strength of the telegraph was its capacity to move information not collect it, explain it, or analyze it.
    Neil Postman
  113. John Stuart Mill argued that the active participation of the governed in the process of government is an essential component of a democratic system. “The food of feeling”, he wrote, “is action… Let a person have nothing to do for his country, and he will not care for it.” That, I assume, is what John F. Kennedy meant in saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. Political indifference in the death of democracy.
    Neil Postman
  114. Science and religion will be hopeful, useful, and life-giving only if we learn to read them with new humility - as tales, as limited human renderings of the Truth.
    Neil Postman
  115. Bernard Mandeville argued that the “private vices” of envy and pride are, in fact, “public virtues” in that they stimulate industry and invention, and Hume wrote that the “pleasure of luxury and the profit of commerce roused men from their indolence”, leading them to advances in their various enterprises.
    Neil Postman
  116. “Information revolution” … has made it impossible to keep secrets from the young - sexual secrets, political secrets, social secrets, historical secrets, medical secrets; that is to say, the full content of adult life, which must be kept at least partially hidden from the young if there is to be a category of life known as childhood.
    Neil Postman
  117. (Editor: Rousseau made two powerful contributions to the idea of Childhood). The first was in his insistence that the child is important in himself, and not merely a means to an end… Rousseau’s second idea was that child’s intellectual and emotional life is important , not because we must to know about it in order to teach and train our children, but because childhood is the stage of life when man most closely approximates the “state of nature”.
    Neil Postman
  118. Imagined futures are always more about where we have been than where we are going.
    Neil Postman
  119. There are three clear legacies of the eighteenth century that bear on education; that is to say, on schooling. The first … is the idea that schooling must be based on understanding the nature of childhood and, in particular, of the different stages through which the young travel on their journey to adulthood. The second … is the idea that an educated populace is a national resources. And the third is the assumption than an educated mind is practiced in the uses of reason, which inevitably leads to a skeptical - one might event say scientific - outlook.
    Neil Postman
  120. It seemed clear to many in the nineteenth century that progress was as real as gravity or any other natural phenomenon. And its reality was given special force by the great invention of invention. We learned how to invent things, and the question of why receded in importance. The idea that if something could be done, it should be done was born in the nineteenth century. And along with it there developed a profound belief in all the principles through which invention succeeds: objectivity, efficiency, standardization, measurement, a market economy, and, of course, faith in progress.
    Neil Postman
  121. Rather than their reading Derrida, they ought to read Diderot, or Voltaire, Rousseau, Swifts, Madison, Condorcet, or many of the writers of the Enlightenment period who believed that, for all of the difficulties in mastering language, it is possible to say what you mean, to mean what you say, and to be silent when you have nothing to say.
    Neil Postman
  122. Like telegraphy, photography re-creates the world as a series of idiosyncratic events. There is no beginning, middle, or end in a world of photographs. as there is none implied by telegraphy. The world is atomized. There is only a present, and it need not be part of any story that can be told.
    Neil Postman
  123. The problem to be solved in the twenty first century is not how to move information, not the engineering of information. We solved that problem long ago. The problem is how to transform information into knowledge, and how to transform knowledge into wisdom.
    Neil Postman
  124. Editorials merely tell us what to think. I am talking about telling us what we need to know in order to think. That is the difference between mere opinion and wisdom. It is also the difference between dogmatism and education. Any fool can have an opinion; to know what one needs to know to have an opinion is wisdom; which is another way of saying that wisdom means knowing what questions to ask about knowledge.
    Neil Postman
  125. We live now in a world to too much information, confusing specialized knowledge, and too little wisdom.
    Neil Postman
  126. For all of the Twain’s enthusiasm for the giantism of American industry, the totality of his work is an affirmation of the pre-technological values. Personal loyalty, regional tradition, the continuity of family life, the relevance of the tales and wisdom of the elderly, are the soul of his books.
    Neil Postman
  127. School is traditionally considered a place for students to learn answers, not the questions which evoke answers. What will happen if a student, being given a set of facts, asks, “What is a fact? How is it different from an opinion? And who is to judge?”
    Neil Postman
  128. Both David Hume and Adam Smith argued that there existed a self-generating impulse of rising expectations that must lead to a society of continuous improvement.
    Neil Postman
  129. There were two intellectual strains of which the idea (Editor: of childhood) was composed. We might call them the Lockean, or the Protestant, conception of childhood, and the Rousseauian, or Romantic, conception. In the Protestant view, the child is an unformed person who, through literacy, education, reason, self-control and shame, may be made into a civilized adult. In the Romantic view, it is not the unformed child but the deformed adult who is the problem. The child possesses as his or her birthright capacities for candor, and understanding , curiosity, and spontaneity that are deadened by literacy, education, reason, self-control, and shame… To Rousseau, education was essentially a subtraction process; to Locke an addition process. But whatever the differences between these to metaphors, they do have in common a concern for the future. Locke wanted education to result in a rich, varied, and copious book; Rousseau wanted education to result in a healthy flower. This is important to keep in mind, for a concern for the future is increasingly missing from the metaphors of childhood in the present day. Neither Locke not Rousseau ever doubted that childhood requires future-oriented guidance of adults.
    Neil Postman
  130. “Every culture”, Lewis Mumford once wrote, “lives within its dream.” But we often lose our dream, as I believe happened to us in the twentieth century. And we are in danger if we cannot reclaim one that will help us to go forward. What else is history for if not to remind us about our better dreams?
    Neil Postman
  131. Among their (Editor: ancient greeks) values none stood higher than that in all things one should strive for excellence.
    Neil Postman
  132. I am suspicious of people who want us to be forward-looking. I literally do not know what they mean when they say, “We must look ahead to see where we are going”. What is it that they wish us to look at? There is nothing yet to see in the future. If looking ahead means anything, it must mean finding in our past useful and humane ideas with which to fill the future.
    Neil Postman
  133. I regard history as the single most important idea for our youth to take with them into the future. I call it an idea rather than a subject because every subject has a history, and its history is an integral part of the subject. History, we might say, is meta-subject. No one can claim accurate knowledge of a subject unless one knows how such knowledge came to be. I would, of course, favor “history” courses, although I have always thought such courses out to be called “histories” so that our youth would understand that what once happened has been seen from different points of view, by different people, each with a different story to tell.
    Neil Postman
  134. Everyone will know how to use computers. But what they will not know, as none of us did about everything from automobiles to movies to television, is what are the psychological, social, and political effects of new technologies. And that is a subject that ought to be central in schools… If we are going to make technology education part of the curriculum, its goal must be to teach students to use technology rather than to be used by it. And that means that they must know how a technology’s use affects the society in which they live, as well as their own personal lives. This is something we didn’t do with television, and, I fear, we are now not doing with computer technology.
    Neil Postman
  135. I … propose that, beginning sometime in later elementary school and proceeding with focused detail in high school and beyond, we provide our young with opportunities to study comparative religion. Such studies would promote no particular religion but would aim at illuminating the metaphors, literature, art, and ritual of religious expression itself.
    Neil Postman
  136. Knowledge cannot judge itself. Knowledge must be judged by other knowledge, and therein lies the essence of wisdom.
    Neil Postman
  137. What do I mean by “knowledge”? I define knowledge as organized information - information that is embedded in some context; information that has a purpose, that leads one to seek further information in order to understand something about the world.
    Neil Postman
  138. “Mythinformation” is an almost religious conviction that at the root of our difficulties - social, political, ecological, psychological - it the fact that we do not have enough information. This, in spite of everyone’s having access to books, newspapers, magazines, radios, television, movies, photographs, videos, CDs, billboards, telephones, junk mail, and, recently, the Internet.
    Neil Postman
  139. The worst thing about television news or radio news is that there is no reason offered for why information is there; no background; no connectedness to anything else; no point of view; no sense of what the audience is supposed to do with the information.
    Neil Postman
  140. But something had happened, as we know, in the twentieth century. Among other things the idea that progress is real, humane, and inevitable died. As early as 1932, Lewis Mumford thought progress to be “the deadest of the dead ideas … the one notion that was thoroughly blasted by the twentieth century experience”.
    Neil Postman
  141. Television solved several important problems, but in solving them changed the nature of political discourse, led to a serious decline in literacy, and quite possibly made the traditional process of socializing children impossible.
    Neil Postman
  142. The idea of progress, then, is one of the great gifts of the Enlightenment. The eighteenth century invented it, elaborated it, and promoted it, and in doing so generated vast resources of vitality, confidence, and hope. But the eighteenth century also criticized and doubted it, initiating powerful arguments about its limitations and pitfalls.
    Neil Postman
  143. We do not always have to go in the direction that some technology takes us. We have responsibilities to ourselves and our institutions that supersede our responsibilities ti the potential of technology.
    Neil Postman
  144. Newspapers should get out of information business and into the knowledge business.
    Neil Postman
  145. The science curriculum is usually focused on communicating the known facts of each discipline without serious attention … to the history of discipline, the mistakes scientist have made, the methods they use and have used, or the ways in which scientific claims are either refuted or confirmed.
    Neil Postman
  146. I mean by “narrative” as story. I refer to big stories - stories that are sufficiently profound and complex to offer explanations of the origins and future of people; stories that construct ideals, prescribe rules of conduct, specify sources of authority, and, in doing all this, provide a sense of continuity and purpose. Joseph Campbell and Rollo May, among others, called such stories “myths”. Marx had such stories in mind referring to “ideologies”. And Freud called them “illusions”. No matter. What is important about narratives is that human being cannot live without them. We are burdened with a kind of consciousness that insists on our having a purpose. Purposefulness requires a moral context, and moral context is what I mean by a narrative.
    Neil Postman
  147. We are presented with a world of “and”s, not “because”s. This happened, and then this happened, and then something else happened.
    Neil Postman
  148. Balzac, Flaubert, and Zola, documented in their novels the spiritual emptiness that a culture obsessed with progress produces.
    Neil Postman
  149. Nicholas Negroponte envisions a time when we may speak to a doorknob or a toaster and predicts that, when we do, we will find the experience no more uncomfortable than talking to a telephone answering machine. He has nothing to say about how we may become different by talking to doorknob (and he has no clue about how talking to an answering machine s is far from comfortable). He is concerned only that we adapt to our technological future. He nowhere addresses the psychic or social meaning of adaptation. People are quite capable of adapting to all sorts of changes - soldiers adapt themselves to killing, children adapt themselves to being fatherless, women can adapt themselves to being abused. I have not doubt we can adapt ourselves to talking much more to machines than to people. But that is not an answer to anything.
    Neil Postman
  150. Democracy depends on public discourse, and therefore the kind of quality of the discourse is of singular importance. Simply to say that more information is received more quickly in diverse forms, with opportunities for fast feedback, is not to say that democratic processes are enriched.
    Neil Postman
  151. To use the term “distance learning” to refer to students and teacher sending e-mail messages to each other may have some value, but it obscures the fact that the act of reading a books is the best example of distance learning possible, for reading not only triumphs over the limitations of space and co-presence bit of time as well.
    Neil Postman
  152. It is not inevitable that the computer will be used to promote sequential, logical, complex, and even philosophical thought among the mass of people. There are economic and political interest that would be better served by allowing the bulk of semiliterate population to entertain itself with the magic of visual computer games, to use and be used by computers without understanding.
    Neil Postman
  153. When people do not have a satisfactory narrative to generate a sense of purpose and continuity, a kind of psychic disorientation takes hold, followed by a frantic search for something to believe in or, probably worse, a resigned conclusion that there is nothing to find.
    Neil Postman
  154. Most students have no idea why Copernicus is to be preferred over Ptolemy. If they know of Ptolemy at all, they know that he was “wrong” and Copernicus was “right”, but only because their teacher or textbook says so. This way of believing is what scientists regard as dogmatic and authoritarian. It is the exact opposite of scientific belief.
    Neil Postman
  155. We think of a philosopher as a person who is involved in a political and social affair, who is eager to change how things are, who is obsessed with the enlightenment of others.
    Neil Postman
  156. In a culture dominated by print, public discourse tends to be characterized by a coherent, orderly arrangement of facts and ideas. The public for whom it is intended is generally competent to manage such discourse. In a print culture, writers make mistakes when they lie, contradict themselves, fail to support their generalizations, try to enforce illogical connections. In a print culture readers make mistakes when they don’t notice, or even worse, don’t care.
    Neil Postman
  157. Marvin Minsky and others working in the field of artificial intelligence have prophesied enthusiastically that humans will become merely pets of their computers.
    Neil Postman
  158. I believe we are living just now in a special moment in time, at one of those darkening moments when all around us is change and we cannot yet see which way to go. Our old ways of explaining ourselves to ourselves are not large enough to accommodate a world made paradoxically small by our technologies, yet larger than we can grasp. We cannot go back to simpler times and simpler tales - tales made by clans and tribes and nations when the world was large enough for each to pursue its separate evolution. There are no island continents in the world of electronic technologies, no places left to hide or withdraw from the communities of women or men. We cannot make the world accept one tale - and tat one our own - by chanting it louder than the rest or silencing those who are singing a different song. We must take to heart the sage remark of Niels Bohr, one of our century’s greatest scientist. He said, “The opposite of a correct statement is an incorrect statement. The opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth.” … We can only make the human tale larger by making ourselves little smaller - by seeing that the vision each of us is granted is but a tiny fragment of a much greater Truth not given to mortals to know.
    Neil Postman
  159. Radio, for example, made it unnecessary for people to read to each other, or to read a all. Movies led people out of their homes; television brought them back but not to read.
    Neil Postman
  160. Television erases the dividing line between childhood and adulthood in two ways: it requires no instruction to grasp its form, and it does not segregate its audience. Therefore, it communicates the same information to everyone, simultaneously, regardless of age, sex, level of education, or previous condition of servitude.
    Neil Postman
  161. As television begins to render invisible the traditional concept of childhood, it would not be quite accurate to say that it immerses us in an adult world. Rather, it uses the material of the adult world as basis for projecting a new kind of person altogether. We might call this person the adult-child… Television promotes as desirable many of the attitudes that we associate with childishness - for example, an obsessive need for immediate gratification, a lack of concern for consequences, and almost promiscuous preoccupation with consumption.
    Neil Postman
  162. The idea of children implies a vision of the future. They are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. But television cannot communicate a sense of the future or, for that matter, a sense of the past. It is a present-centered medium, a speed-of-light medium. Everything we see on television is experienced as happening now. The grammar of television has no analogue to the past and future tenses in language. It amplifies the present out of all proportion and transforms the childish need for immediate gratification into a way of life. We end up with what Christopher Lasch calls “the culture of narcissism” - no future, no children, everyone fixed at an age somewhere twenty and thirty.
    Neil Postman
  163. One becomes fastidious about method only when one has not story to tell.
    Neil Postman
  164. Pomposity is the triumph of style over substance.
    Neil Postman
  165. The symbolic for of television does not require any special instruction or learning. In America, television-viewing begins at about the age of eighteen months, and by thirty-six months children begin to understand and respond to television imagery… There is no need for any preparation or prerequisite training for watching television… Watching television requires no skills and develops no skills. That is why there is no such things as remedial television-watching. That is also why you are not better today at watching television than you were five years ago, or ten.
    Neil Postman
  166. To be an Athenian is to hold knowledge and, especially, the quest for knowledge in high esteem. To contemplate, to reason, to experiment, to question - these are, to an Athenian, the most exalted activities a person can perform. To a Visigoth, the quest for knowledge is useless unless it can help you to earn money or to gain power over other people. To be an Athenian is to cherish language because you believe it to be humankind’s most precious gift. In their use of language, Athenians strive for grace, precision, and variety. And they admire those who can achieve such skill. To a Visigoth, one word is as good as another, one sentence indistinguishable from another. A Visigoth’s language aspires to nothing higher than the cliché. To be an Athenian is to understand that the thread which holds civilized society together is thin and vulnerable; therefore, Athenians place great value on tradition, social restraint, and continuity. To an Athenian, bad manners are acts of violence against social order. The modern Visigoth cares little about any of this. The Visigoths think of themselves as the center of the universe. Tradition exists for the own convenience, good manners are an affectation and a burden, and history is merely what is in yesterday’s newspaper. To be an Athenian is to take a interest in public affairs and the improvement of public behavior. Indeed, the ancient Athenians had a word for people who did not. The word was idiotes, from which we get our word “idiot”. A modern Visigoth is interested only in his own affairs and has no sense of the meaning of community. And, finally, to be an Athenian is to esteem the discipline, skill, and taste that are required to produce enduring art. Therefor, in approaching a work of art, Athenians prepare their imagination through learning and experience. To a Visigoth, there is no measure of artistic excellence except popularity. What catches the fancy of the multitude is good. no other standard is respected or even acknowledged by the Visigoth.
    Neil Postman
  167. The brain does not regard brain change as a problem. If we think of language as brain of civilization, then it is possible that severe language-damage may not be perceived by the social body as a problem. It is possible that we have adapted ourselves to disinformation, to Newspeak, to picture newspapers and magazines, to religion revealed in the form of entertainment, to politics in the form of a thirty-second television commercial. In adapting ourselves, we come to accept the present situation as the only available standard.
    Neil Postman
  168. Television if relentless in both revealing and trivializing all things private and shameful.
    Neil Postman
  169. We do not see anything as it is except through the questions we put to it.
    Neil Postman
  170. When a culture becomes overloaded with pictures; when logic and rhetoric lose their binding authority; when historical truth becomes irrelevant; when the spoken or written word is distrusted or makes demands on our attention that we are incapable of giving; when our politics, history, education, religion, public information, and commerce are expressed largely in visual imagery rather than words, then a culture is in serious jeopardy.
    Neil Postman
  171. Humans live in two worlds - the world of events and things, and the world of words about events and things. In considering the relationship between these two worlds, we must keep in mind that language does much more than construct concepts about the events and things in the world; it tells us what sort of concepts we ought to construct. For we do not have a name for every thing that occurs in the world. Languages differ not only in their names for things but in what things they choose to name.
    Neil Postman
  172. Just as it is natural for a physicist upon reaching his deepest understandings to be drawn forward religion, so it is natural for a mature philosopher to turn forward the problems of education.
    Neil Postman
  173. (Editor: Korzybski’s) non-Aristotelian perspective requires that we learn and internalize the most up-to-date assumptions and understandings about the structure of the world: the word, for example, is not a thing; no two events in the world are identical; no one can say everything about an event; things are undergoing continuous change; et cetera.
    Neil Postman
  174. Euphemism … is that form of balderdash wherein we attempt to obscure the nature of reality.
    Neil Postman
  175. Television obliterates the distinction between child and adult, as it obliterates social secretes, as it undermines concepts of the future and the value of restraint and discipline, we seem destined to be moving back toward a medieval sensibility from which literacy had freed us.
    Neil Postman
  176. Television screens saturated with commercials promote the Utopian and childish idea that all problems have fast, simple, and technological solutions.
    Neil Postman
  177. Commercial television adds to the Decalogue several impious commandments, among them that thou shalt have no other gods than consumption, thou shalt despise what is old, thou shalt seek to amuse thyself continuously, and thou shalt avoid complexity like the ten plagues that afflicted Egypt.
    Neil Postman
  178. I believe that human beings need first to be children before they can be grown-ups. Otherwise, they remain like television’s adult-child all their lives, with no sense of belonging, no capacity for lasting relationships, no respect for limits, and not grasp of the future.
    Neil Postman
  179. Childhood innocence is impossible to sustain, which is why children have disappeared from television… All the children on televisions shows are depicted as merely small adults, in the manner of thirteenths - and fourteenth-century paintings… You will see children whose language, dress, sexuality, and interests are not different from those of the adults on the same shows.
    Neil Postman
  180. A discovery is a discovery, and an idea is an idea. Its source is irrelevant.
    Neil Postman
  181. (Editor: Huxley) prophesied, if I may put it this way, that there is a tyranny lurking in a Coca-Cola bottle; that we could be ruined not only by what we fear and hate but by what we welcome and love, by what we construe to be a gift from the gods.
    Neil Postman
  182. Brooks was making a kind of prophecy … that the producers of American culture will increasingly turn our history, politics, religion, commerce, and education into forms of entertainment, and that we will become as a result a trivial people, incapable of coping with complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty, perhaps even reality. We will become, in a phrase, a people amused into stupidity.
    Neil Postman
  183. There are two ways in which the spirit of a culture becomes a prison. This was the way of Nazis, and it appears to be the way of the Russians. In the second - the Huxleyan - culture becomes a burlesque. This appears to be the way of the Americans. What Huxley teaches is that in the Age of Advanced Technology, spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling countenance than from one whose face exudes suspicion and fate. In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice; we watch him, by ours. When a culture becomes distracted by trivia; when political and social life are redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments; when public conversation becomes a form of baby talk; when a people become, in short, an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then - Huxley argued - a nation finds itself at risk and culture-death is a clear possibility.
    Neil Postman
  184. Junk food, once suite only to the undiscriminating palates and iron stomachs of the young, is now common fare for adults. It has already been forgotten that adults are supposed to have more developed taste in food than children. McDonald’s and Burger King commercials show us that this distinction is no longer relevant.
    Neil Postman
  185. It is meaningless to have answers if we do not know the questions that produces them… To have an answer without knowing the questions, without understanding that you might not have been given a different answer if the question had been posed differently, may be more than meaningless; it may be exceedingly dangerous.
    Neil Postman
  186. In Orwell’s book people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.
    Neil Postman
  187. As language itself creates culture in its own image, each new medium of communication re-creates or modifies culture in its image; and it is extreme naïveté to believe that a medium of communication or, indeed, any technology is merely a tool, a way of doing. Each is also a way of seeing. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a man with a pencil, everything looks like a sentence; to a man with a television camera, everything looks like a picture, and to a man with a computer, the whole world looks like a data.
    Neil Postman
  188. The principles and rules of asking questions obviously differ as we move from of one system of knowledge to another.
    Neil Postman
  189. We may … be so preoccupied with defending ourselves against attach that we are unable to recognize when our enemy is inadvertently helping our case. That is why Napoleon warned his generals that they must never interrupt an enemy when he is in the process of committing suicide.
    Neil Postman
  190. We are, to use his (Editor: Korzybski) phrase, “time-binders”, while plants are “chemistry-binders”, and animals are “space-binders”. Chemistry-binding is the capacity to transform sunlight into organic chemical energy; space-binding, the capacity to move about and control a physical environment. Human have these capacities, too, but are unique in their ability to transport their experience through time. As time binders, we can accumulate knowledge from the past and communicate what we know to the future.
    Neil Postman
  191. This is where television news is at its most radical - not in the giving publicity to radical causes, but in producing the impression of an ungovernable world.
    Neil Postman
  192. With the assistance of modern contraceptives, the sexual appetite of both adults and children can be satisfied without serious restraint and without mature understanding of its meaning. Here, television has played an enormous role, since it not only keep the entire population in a condition of high sexual excitement but stresses a kind of egalitarianism of sexual fulfillment: sex is transformed into a product available to everyone - let us say, like mouthwash or under-arm deodorant.
    Neil Postman
  193. Our principle means of accomplishing binding of time is symbol. But our capacity to symbolize is dependent upon and integral to another process, which Korzybski called “abstracting”. Abstracting is the continuous activity of selecting, omitting, and organizing the details of reality so that we experience the world as patterned and coherent. Korzybski shared with Heraclitus the assumption that the world is undergoing continuous change and that no two events are identical. We give stability to to our world only through our capacity to re-create it by ignoring differences and attending to similarities: although we know that we cannot step into the “same” river twice, abstracting allows us to act as if we can.
    Neil Postman
  194. In the television-commercial parables, the root cause of evil is Technological Innocence, a failure to know the particulars of the beneficent accomplishments of the industrial process.
    Neil Postman
  195. “Future schlock” is the name I give to a cultural condition characterized by the rapid erosion of collective intelligence. Future schlock is the aftermath of future shock. Whereas future shock results in confused, indecisive, and psychically uprooted people, future schlock produces a massive class of mediocre people.
    Neil Postman
  196. It is odd that we have no word for serendipity’s close by but troublesome cousin, especially because it is more common variety of experience. I refer to a situation in which someone looks to one thing, discovers a more valuable thing, but doesn’t know it. I propose the word columbusity, if honor of Christopher Columbus.
    Neil Postman
  197. How can I help students to get an idea? … One of the ways that seem to help is to ask them to survey their stock of beliefs, choose one of them that they hold deeply, and then argue that its opposite is true. The result is often liberating, and provides confirmation of the commonplace that playing with language is an important means of making discoveries.
    Neil Postman
  198. Unless one’s complaints are grounded in a sense of duty to one’s country or to a recognizable humane tradition, they are not worthy of serious attention.
    Neil Postman
  199. The theme music came up and Sassoon had just time enough to say, “Don’t go away. We’ll be back with a marvelous new diet and then a quick look at incest”.
    Neil Postman
  200. “Watching television” is something quite different from “watching a television program”. The later implies a selection, the former a compulsion.
    Neil Postman
  201. Without a narrative, life has no meaning. Without meaning, learning has no purpose. Without a purpose, schools are houses of detention, not attention.
    Neil Postman
  202. I do not go as far back as the introduction of the radio and the Victoria, but I am old enough to remember when 16-millimeter film was to be the sure cure, the closed-circuit television, then 8-millimeter film, then teacherproof textbooks. Now computers. I know a false god when I see one.
    Neil Postman
  203. I refer, for example, to the fact that approximately ten thousands schools have accepted the offer made by Christopher Whittle to include, daily, two minutes of commercial messages in the curriculum - the first time, to my knowledge, that an advertiser has employed the power of the state to force anyone to watch commercials. In exchange for this opportunity, Whittle offers his own ten-minute version of the news of the day and free, expensive equipment, including a satellite dish.
    Neil Postman
  204. There is little evidence (that is to say, none) that the productivity of nation’s economy is related to the quality of its schooling.
    Neil Postman
  205. We are presented with a student who is “bored with the real world.” What does it mean to say someone is bored with the real world, especially one so young? Can a journey into virtual reality cure such a problem? And if it can, will our troubled youngster want to return to the real world? Confronted with a student who is bored with the real world, I don’t think we can get away so easily by making available a virtual-reality physics lab.
    Neil Postman
  206. What happens to people when they have no gods to serve? Some commit suicide. There is more of this in the United States, particularly among our young, than in most other places in the world. Some envelop themselves in drugs, including alcohol. Some take whatever pleasure is to be found in random violence. Some encase themselves in an impenetrable egoism. Many, apparently, find a momentary and pitiful release from dread in commercial re-creations of once powerful narratives of the past.
    Neil Postman
  207. Who writes the songs that young girls sing? Or the tales that old men tell? Who creates the myths that bind a nation and give purpose and meaning to the idea of a public education? In America, it is advertisers and, of course, the popular musicians and filmmakers; maybe even the hollow mean gathered around swimming pools in Beverly Hills, inventing stories we call television sitcoms.
    Neil Postman
  208. There was a time when educators became famous for providing reasons for learning; now the become famous for inventing a method.
    Neil Postman
  209. The question is not, Does or doesn’t public schooling create a public? The question is, What kind of public does it create? A conglomerate of self-indulgent consumers? Angry, soulless, directionless masses? Indifferent, confused citizens? Or a public imbued with confidence, a sense of purpose, a respect for learning, and tolerance? The answer to this question has nothing whatever to do with computers, with testing, with teacher accountability, with class size, and with other details of managing schools. The right answer depends on two things and two things alone: the existence of shared narratives and the capacity of such narratives to provide and inspired reason for schooling.
    Neil Postman
  210. … at it best, schooling can be about how to make a life, which is quite different from how to make a living. Such an enterprise is not easy to pursue, since our politicians rarely speak of it, our technology is indifferent to it, and our commerce despises it. Nonetheless, it is the weightiest and most important thing to write about.
    Neil Postman
  211. … learning the following lessons: share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, wash your hands before you eat, and, of course, flush… We have ample evidence that it takes many years of teaching these values in school before they are accepted and internalized. That is why it won’t do for children to learn in isolation. The point is to place them in a setting that emphasizes collaboration, as well as sensitivity and responsibility for others.
    Neil Postman
  212. The evidence for the superiority of one method over another is usually given in the language of statistics, which, in spite of its abstract nature, is strangely referred to as “hard evidence.” This gives the profession a sense of making progress, and sometimes delusions of grandeur. I recently read an article in The American Educator in which the author claims that teaching methods based on research in cognitive science are “the educational equivalents of polio vaccine and penicillin.”
    Neil Postman
  213. If I may amend Niels Bohr’s remark, …, the opposite of a profound story is another profound story, by which I mean that the story of every group may be told inspiringly, without excluding its blemishes but with an emphasis on the various struggles to achieve humanity, or, to borrow from Lincoln again, the struggles to reveal the better angels of our nature. This is what once was meant by cultural pluralism.
    Neil Postman