Postman brings up “educational programming” in this section, beginning with the specific example of “Sesame Street.” Sesame Street is education that children love, but it is fundamentally different than school, says Postman. Televisions are not teachers—they cannot be asked questions, and they cannot hold conversations. Postman notes that no education is complete without this social element. If a child can read, write, and count, but cannot converse, question and socialize, then he or she is not properly educated.
Postman here responds to a hypothetical counterargument about the ways in which television can be used to educate, rather than distract. His point is that television cannot be interactive. This is another moment where we should consider the advances in digital technologies since Postman published this book. With the internet, a student can interact with media or online educators—but it’s likely that Postman still would have found this system inferior to a traditional classroom setting.
People who see television as educational miss the point, says Postman. He contends that all television is educational, but that it educates its viewers in the ideology of television. When children learn from a television, they learn only what a television is capable of teaching them: which is the value of disinformation, entertainment, and amusement.
Postman admits that we learn from television, but what we learn actually contributes to the problem—we learn to seek out entertainment above all else. Thus entertainment culture is self-perpetuating. This is one of Postman’s less specific predictions, but it also seems like one of his most accurate.