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The Most Powerful Education System Ever Known

Todd Gitlin, one of the leading thinkers on media and our lives, recently said this: "The torrent of images, songs, and stories streaming has become our familiar world." This "torrent" determines what we see and what we don't, what we think about and what never enters our mind.

The media we watch everyday has been shaping us for years, whether we know it or not. For example, think of MTV. As MTV's founding chairman, Bob Pittman, stated in a 1982 interview: "If you can get their emotions going, make them forget their logic, you've got them. At MTV, we don't shoot for the 14-year-olds, we own them."

Or think of the TV show Friends, which ran for ten years between 1994 and 2004, and is now one of the most popular shows in syndication. Funny, right? But not innocent. A survey of all 236 episodes of the NBC sitcom found that the characters had a total of 85 sexual partners—and that's only counting those who appeared on screen.

What does that do to us? More than we realize. What the media does is normalize things. If you see likable characters on TV having sex outside of marriage enough times, it becomes not only acceptable, but desirable. That's why Fred Fedler, author of one of the most widely used college textbooks on the mass media, writes, "the media may constitute the most powerful education system ever known to man."

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