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I am terrible at math.  Actually I’m terrible at a lot of things, like driving in Santa Rosa (seems like a blood sport to a small town boy like me) and handwriting (completely illegible) and remembering things I don’t care about, I’m just awful at that.  But math is in a class by itself, on days when I’m particularly tired or distracted or hurried I may even have to resort to using my fingers to add stuff up; I have thought for years these math problems must be caused by a learning disability – no joke!

I’ve always been this way, even in grade school I just had a horrible time; this meant I despised going to math class with the white hot hate of a man tortured.  My seventh grade algebra teacher, Mr. Reilly, was a wonderful and kind man, he did his best to not make me feel stupid, and he offered help before and after school when I could make it; we both did our best but to no avail.  On one particularly hard day I missed my ride to school, my hot lunch was cold and after lunch I had to go to algebra; oh the agony!  I honestly considered ditching class, but the courage to do that wouldn’t come for another year.  As I sheepishly walked into the room where my algebra class was held, I noticed a man sitting in the back who was completely unknown to me; joy of all joy I must say, it was a substitute teacher!  My joy turned to euphoria when one of the A/V guys wheeled in a TV/VCR combo – It was like a free day, a day off from feeling dumb; it was just what I needed.  The sub called class roll and then hit play and returned to his desk, and for the next half-hour Mr. Reilly’s fourth period algebra was entertained by Disney’s Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land.

Fast-forward six years and I’m a freshman at the local community college (that’s what we Washingtonians call junior college) taking an algebra class and on the first day my professor was lecturing and asked the question, “Can anyone name a famous mathematician?”  Something clicked in my head and I sort of half coughed out, “Pythagoras.”  The professor looked at me, nodding his approval, and several students looked at me, mouths agape, and for the very first time I felt smart in a math class.

How did this happen?  Simply put, it was TV.  Well, to be precise it was the Donald Duck cartoon I watched all those years before that introduced me to the name Pythagoras and for some reason it stuck.  Maybe it was the messenger, but my guess is it was the medium, which brings me to the point of this blog entry; TV isn’t simply for tuning out the world and being entertained in a non-interactive way, it is also a wonderful learning tool!  Want to learn how to cook but don’t have time to take a class?  Check out TV.  Want to get in better physical condition but can’t afford a gym membership or personal trainer?  You’ve got both, it’s called TV.  Want to be better informed about the economy, politics, the weather, or pretty much anything else?  There’s a great classroom available, it’s called TV.  Periodically, for as long as I’m privileged to write this blog, I will be sharing some programs on various subjects that provide a worthwhile learning experience and that represent the best of what TV has to offer.  Now, if they’d just do a Donald Duck in Retirement Planning Land or even Donald Duck in Balanced Checkbook Land I’d be set.

- John Morton

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