Who Says Television Doesn’t Teach You Anything?
“You can’t learn everything from a TV,” parents and teachers would always warn whenever children spent too much time sitting in front of the Tube, watching reruns of cartoons and sitcoms. But as it turns out, while you can’t learn everything from television programming, you can learn a great deal about philosophy and logic from certain shows.
At the University of California – Berkeley, students have the opportunity to enroll in a course titled ”Rhetoric 24 Freshman Seminar: Arguing with Judge Judy: Popular ‘Logic’ on TV Judge Show.” This class centers around why and how people use illogical arguments to try to plead their legal cases, despite that argument being illogical and ineffective. The course delves into perversions of logic, as well as the reasons behind why so many people resort to using these tactics. A textbook is required, but the most fascinating learning undoubtedly takes place on a television monitor and in classroom discussions.
At Georgetown University, students can enroll in a class titled “Philosophy and Star Trek.” The class covers the numerous Star Trek shows, including The Original Series with William Shatner as the iconic Captain Kirk, and the later Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. Every episode is examined for what it offers in philosophy, as the series has always been lauded for its thoughtful storylines and themes. There is little doubt that the perpetually logical Vulcan Mr. Spock contributes most of the material covered in this course. The course covers metaphysics, epistemology, and major philosophical questions, which are all centered around the Star Trek universe. The writings of renowned philosophers will be read alongside Star Trek viewings so that students can better see the parallels between what the philosophers believed and how the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise handled themselves.
Topics covered include examining whether or not time travel is possible, and what makes a person a person, drawing upon the question of whether the humanoid android character of Data is indeed a person. Essays and examinations help students to get the most out of this television show-based course.
So the next time someone argues that you shouldn’t be spending so much time watching television because you can’t learn anything from it, consider putting on an episode of Star Trek or Judge Judy and proving to them that you can indeed learn from the Tube.