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  • The Personal Impact of Television

    Tony Grooms, an author and poet living in Atlanta, describes how events he saw on television as a young boy became topics in his stories, like police using powerful fire hoses to stop the protesters or seeing James Brown was on the Ed Sullivan Show. We are reminded that while many things on television may be forgettable, every now and again, there is something that stays with us that we never forget. 

    Support Materials


    1. How did television change our collective lifestyle?

    2. Predict what our lives might be like if television had never been invented.

    3. What television programs have made an impact on your life – good or bad?

    4. Write an account of an event in history that came alive because of television.


    1. The events of September 11, 2001, have changed all of America. Discuss in class whether this would have been as alarming if it had only been on radio – or if we had only seen it in a newsreel/tape an hour or days later – rather than as it was happening.

    2. Take a survey of the amount of time students in the class spend watching TV every day, week, month. (Students might keep a weekly log of TV shows watched.) You might want to take a separate survey of the parents of the students in the class and compare the two. Calculate how much time most of the class spends sleeping and compare this with the fact that “children today have spent more time watching television than in any other activity except sleeping.” Which was more: sleeping or watching TV? Studying or watching TV? You might want to go further and ask if excessive TV watching might be the cause of lower grades, smaller attention spans, boredom in school, obesity, or less exercise or time spent reading.

    3. Take a field trip to visit your local GPB television studio. Click here to access the request form.  

    4. Produce your own hour-long variety show. This should be a production which would consist of:

    *a news program (up-to-date news – local, national, and school), including weather
    *an interview with a famous personality (local or national – dramatized by one of the students)
    *cooking segment (with real food)
    *commentary/editorial (possibly using the results of the survey in #1)
    *something funny: banter between the anchors, a joke segment, or interviewing people-on-the-street (people-in-the-hall)

    Do your own editing to make sure it does not run over an hour. Enlist the aid of the technology department and their equipment to make this possible. (Parts of this tape might be added to your local school’s own morning news program, if you have one. If not, this might be the beginning of one at your school.)


    civil rights: individual rights, particularly those personal liberties guaranteed to all citizens in the Constitution
    broadcast: to transmit information or entertainment by radio or television over a wide area
    James Brown: a singer from Augusta, Georgia, who was called the “Godfather of Soul"; his soul/pop songs and fancy footwork/dancing transcended racial barriers as he became nationally famous

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. How did television change our collective lifestyle?
    Television changed the way children played. They no longer needed comic books since the stories were illustrated for them on TV. Instead of playing outside, children would come in to watch their favorite programs.
    Television also changed people’s view of the world. Life was more innocent before TV than after. Our culture went from innocent to more daring. The news stories affected the civil rights movement since mainly middle and upper-class whites could afford to buy a TV. Violence directed what was shown by TV reports and cameramen.
    The civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave inspiration to people since they could hear him on TV and watch the protests and reactions of the people. The movement was broadcast to the entire world and was used by the civil rights leaders to gain sympathy for their cause.
    War was televised for the first time on television. This made war personal for people. People questioned government rather than following it blindly. There were protests generated by what was seen on TV – more first-hand accounts than just reports from the news people on the scene.

    2. Predict what our lives might be like if television had never been invented.
    Answers will vary, but students should refer to answers for #1 and #2 above.

    3. Think about one thing you saw on television that greatly influenced your thinking, feelings, etc. Write a paragraph or page about this event, when it occurred, how old you were at the time, where you were when you watched it, and what impact it made on your life. Has it made a difference in how you think about something? What feelings did this particular event leave with you?
    (Answers will vary) – Students should have reasons for this impact on their lives. 

    4. Write an account of an event in history that came alive because of television.
    The space program was probably one of the first and most impressive of the events of the 20th century that television brought into our living rooms. FDR had his "fireside chats" on the radio, but our being able to see and hear the president giving a speech - live - at a critical time in our history (Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, Kruschev at the UN, Berlin Wall being destroyed, Kennedy assassination, etc.) made a huge impact on people's lives. Interviewing celebrities and seeing their homes made them more human than idols. All kinds of sports events could be both seen and heard on TV, and the accompanying advertisements on these and other programs increased our economy more than any other way it had been done before. News and information was instantaneous and made history come alive. This and other events could be written about as students review the timeline of historic events between the late 1940s and today.

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