# cultivate your mind # dumbed down culture

Refuse to be Dumbed Down

This week's topic has a provocative title: Refuse to be Dumbed Down. I know that am not alone in noticing the dumbing down of culture: in our TV shows, in our music, in our movies and in the articles we read online. Shock-value, lowbrow humor and vulgarities in every sense of the term have infiltrated our everyday lives. It is becoming increasingly harder to find culture, refinement, true art and class.

But... all hope is not lost.

Once we recognize this and acknowledge our society's current state of affairs there are many things we can do:

We can seek out the artists who are truly talented and make art that benefits society.
We can watch the TV shows that are in line with our values.
We can patronize movies with meaningful stories to tell that don't insult our intelligence.
We can seek out music by talented musicians that move and inspire us.
We can not give our attention to the crass celebrities of the world.
We can read books and publications that cultivate our mind.
We can empower ourselves to keep an open mind and to follow our instinct.
We can seek out the arts in our community.
We can cultivate our own art, whether it's playing the piano again or writing that novel you've always wanted to write.
We can remain assured that no matter what direction the world is going, we refuse to be dumbed down with it.

Check out this week's video to see the entire message. If you are not able to see the video above, click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

Madame Chic Inspiring Thought
This week do something you wouldn't ordinarily do: listen to a symphony on YouTube while you file the bills, get a friend and go see an independent film or go sit in the park with a good book of poetry. Take time to cultivate your mind again enjoy the moment thoroughly.

Comment of the Week
On YouTube Rosemary writes:

Jennifer, in your first book, this was the topic that inspired me the most. I think you could dedicate a whole book to the topic of cultivating your mind. A new study reveled that, compared to previous generations, this generation is the most underexposed to the arts. I work directly in education and the arts; I have had the privilege of exposing children to the arts through galleries, ballet, and theater. Please continue to talk more about this topic. We need it.

Rosemary, thank you for your comment! Exposure to the arts is a major issue. With many arts programs being cut, for many children, the only exposure to the arts they get are the music videos they see on television, songs they hear on the radio and stars they see on the magazine covers. As a society I believe we must come together to expose our children to different and varied arts apart from today's popular culture. I used to work for a company called, Will & Co., performing Shakespeare for children so this is a topic near and dear to my heart!

If you loved this video and agree with its message, please share with your friends. Let's get a discussion going. What do you think about the dumbing down of our culture? Let me know in the comments or online with the hashtag #cultivateyourmind

**Announcement: from now on, blog posts and videos will be uploaded on Mondays (not Sundays) thank you in advance for your understanding!

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Anceeta Martis said...
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Patricia said...

This reminds me of things we did when our children were young. I read a poem to them every day and we had a poem we all recited daily for memory work. We only listened to classical music. I wanted them to appreciate good quality music before their teen years. We did picture studies, following the ideas of Charlotte Mason (Google Charlotte Mason Picture Studies if interested.) We learned folk songs. We read classic books aloud and Shakespeare for Children. I could go on and on! Good post.

Jessie said...

Something I admire about England is their support and funding for the arts. The big issue is that so many kids are raised without the exposure and, just like being raised with poor eating habits, it is hard to change. Growing up I somehow was never required to read most classic novels, and now in my 20s have taken it upon myself to dive into classic british literature. I've discovered a world that I wish I had known in middle and high school, full of wonderful female role models.

Something giving me hope, though it is geared toward older people (high school, college age and above), is the rise of YouTube webseries. Starting with one called the Lizzie Bennet Diaries - people all over the world have begun adapting classic literature into a modern day context in vlog format. (I've seen versions of Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, Much Ado About Nothing, A Tell Tale Heart, The Importance of Being Earnest...) They even create fictional social media accounts for the characters to interact with viewers. It has created an entry point for current students to rediscover the classics and I have read comments from many viewers who have picked up the books after viewing the videos. The majority of these adaptions have been by college students and they are really flexing their creative muscles and finding clever ways to re-tell these beloved stories.

Aussie Connoisseur said...

Hi Jennifer.

what an important topic. I took my kids to a fantastic A Capella concert on the weekend. My kids, aged 12 and 15, weren't eligible for a child's discount, but I took them anyway as I feel it is so important for them to be exposed to great artists.

Yes, people are tending to stay at home on their couches more - what a shame! We were at a restaurant last Friday and it was almost empty - but I noticed dozens of take away orders kept staff run off their feet. I felt really sad about this change in our society where people would rather not celebrate their lives by going out ( I also felt sad about all of the plastic containers being used for takeaway, and the environmental impact).

I ordered some novels online recently, and when I started one of them it was clear that it was complete trash - I refused to finish reading it!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for encouraging us all to seek out the arts in our communities!

I would love to add that our local high schools and colleges are excellent resources for the performing and visual arts. The quality of the art offered can be amazingly good with the added benefit of an affordable price.

Thank you for your excellent blog!

Charlene said...

I so agree with you, Jennifer. The thing that amazes me is how saturated television is with reality shows. I just wonder who watches all that stuff. We don't watch any of them so perhaps there are some that are worthwhile but I haven't seen any indication of that. Seems like such a waste of time. if you think about the fact that you're trading a portion of your life for an hour of junk on tv and you can never get that back, it's just sad. Life is too short for that. Thanks for talking about this topic today. It's definitely an important subject that deserves more attention.

JennyLouPDX said...


Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! As someone who grew up in a family who places high value on the arts, it pains me to see that so many people of my generation have no desire to enrich their lives with culture.
We need mass re-introduction to the arts in our society. I think people have a preconceived notion that it is boring, or "snobbish", as I've heard recently from an acquaintance. I feel people would be amazed at how much they'd enjoy a little more culture in their lives. Case in point: it took some convincing for my boyfriend to attend Carmen . He was of the mind that opera is for old boring people. Well - he absolutely loved it! He's even considering attending a ballet in the future.
If folks would just try something outside of their routine they may be pleasantly surprised.

Lori said...

I've noticed that the morning news in our area has completely "dumbed down". Rather than newsworthy stories and events we get reports on who got voted off the island, or who Donald Trump fired or whose celebrity tweet went virile. Seriously, this is news? This is beyond annoying to me.

Unknown said...

This resonated with me on so many levels! I think as a society, we've been trained over time to accept mediocrity, and also to just go with the flow and not think for ourselves. We are not robots. We are all individuals with unique and important life purposes. We deserve quality and don't need so much focus on quantity.

bullet said...

Hi, I agree with the sentiment but practically speaking, if you want your artier posts to get higher hits, consider switching up the way you frame your content. For example, 5 Classical Music Pieces to Listen to While You Do X, or My 7 Fave Ballets, or My 6 Fave Sculptures at the Met etc. Specificity and showing, not telling, is a good bet.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for speaking out about this. I haven't watched prime time television in over two years. I can't bear to waste the brain space. It's excruciating! This is the second year we purchased tickets for the Children's theater. Our children are four and eight. They absolutely love it! We love music as well and encourage our girls to sing out and dance about. Many a Friday night we spend as a family singing along to great songs. I want my children to be able to recognize beauty all around them. I detest mediocrity. Let's live passionately every day.

Lourdes said...

Bravo. Well said. I couldn't agree more.

Unknown said...

Hello Jennifer,

May I say, brava!
This is such an important topic, for all of us in today's society, and especially for our children.
There is a quote by Winston Churchill, that I think sums the topic perfectly. When asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he replied: “Then what are we fighting for?”


Jennifer Baldwin said...

Thank you for drawing attention to this topic. We think of this a lot in our home. Our kids recently started attending a charter school that focuses on classical education. In keeping with that focus, the school has a "no pop culture" rule. Kids wear uniforms, and their backpacks and lunchboxes must be free of pop culture. The rule also applies to their conversations during the school day. At first, we were a bit shocked by how strict this rule is, but now we love it! Kids are encouraged to talk about the many rich and beautiful things they learn in school... literature, history, science, etc. Also, by reducing the effect of the "dumbing down" of pop culture (since they all get exposed to it outside of school, of course), the students naturally set higher goals for themselves and live by higher standards. Thanks again, and keep fighting the good fight!

Ladylike said...

Amen, Jennifer. You might receive more views on your lighter subjects, but I think you have received more comments more quickly on this meatier topic. Personally, I love a substantial subject I can sink my teeth into, and this is one of them since these problems have their roots in the history and psychology of our country. I'm sure I won't be able to resist sharing my thoughts on those questions, but most importantly, I want to address the solutions. I agree you have identified at least half of the solutions which are to be a patron of the arts and, if possible, an artist yourself. I am a patron of the arts (symphony, ballet, public classical radio and indie films) and I come from a family of artists and architects. However, I know that as long as I continue to pay my cable bill, there will continue to be garbage on TV. If you really want to change the networks, you have to hit them where it hurts, which is in their pocketbooks. How we spend our dollars is our power as consumers. Our spending behavior is monitored and studied and taken very seriously by the corporations. Make no mistake: the reason why there are more organic foods, for example, in the stores that did not use to carry them is because the stores noticed what people buy. Ten years ago my husband and I decided we no longer wanted to pay for cable TV. We felt it was not a good use of our hard earned money considering the cruddy programming. We were also concerned about our child and what he might be exposed to. I can honestly say we have never looked back. We select our news from the internet and when something really important happens, we never fail to hear about it by word of mouth. When there is a major sporting event, we take our kids to a pizzeria or burger bar with a TV. We carefully choose the films and TV shows we want to watch from Netflix. It works for us and I hope others will consider this lifestyle change. Kind of like the ten item wardrobe, once you try it, you realize your life is much better. As for the history and psychology of our nation's addiction to entertainment, well, I just said it, I think it's an addiction. According to Freud, religion used to be the opiate of the masses. Now since religion is on it's way out, "entertainment" seems to be the new drug of choice. It's distracting. Why so many people feel the need to be so distracted from their own lives is an interesting question. Honestly, I think many people just aren't ready to be responsible for their own choices. They would rather zone out and have someone else make the choices. After all, if you are just following along with what everyone else is doing , then it's not your fault if it doesn't turn out well. Being a critically thinking individual and accepting the consequences whatever they are seems to be the overarching theme here from what I can tell. Thanks again for the thought provoking post, Jennifer.

Unknown said...

What a great discussion! Thank you! The ideas others have posted are inspiring and I can't wait to enjoy the arts in so many new and different ways!
I wanted to share the 2015 reading challenge that I am doing. It is a great way to open your mind to many different things as you embrace and try these new books. http://www.popsugar.com/love/Reading-Challenge-2015-36071458
I recently saw the traveling Broadway production of Cinderella here in Denver. Let me tell you, it was amazing! If it comes to your city, please make a point to see it! As well as the Cartier jewelry exhibit! Wonderful!
This is great! Thank you!

Unknown said...

I'm so glad you posted this, I think quite often about how I can inspire my daughter (aged 15) to be interested in cultural activities beyond the mind-numbing rubbish that television seems to be full of. I'm happy to say that it's working and she is starting to suggest going to plays/ galleries. etc herself which fills me with delight. On a personal level. I refuse to buy any magazine with a reality TV person on the cover. I know it's only a small thing but it makes me feel slightly better!

Unknown said...

I love watching documentaries on various topics. There are tons to choose from on Netflix. There are great musicians that write their own lyrics and music in addition to singing and playing an instrument. Even some young people. Very talented people not relying on flash and shock value.
Love your comment to follow our instincts. You might like Tara Styles new book Make Your Own Rules Diet in which she encourages us to follow our intuition and think for ourselves.

Donna said...

Excellent topic! A few years ago, we had a regular fun "art night": we invited our friends and would watch "Work of Art: Next Great Artist" and the next week, we would do the challenge ourselves and bring our creative efforts to the group to share. We had families with kids as well as singles and it was so much fun. We regularly take our kids to museums, opera, concerts and plays and have since they were infants. My 17 year old asked to go to the opera for her birthday last year. We can successfully fight the dumbing down of our culture and show our children a broader perspective.

juliagray19 said...

Thank you for this post! It's important to me to intermingle the arts in its various forms in my courses: musical theater, culinary arts, etc.

I teach US and World History to 16-17 y/o students. I'm giving them extra credit for ushering, participating in the cast or stage crew of our school's production South Pacific. Why? First, South Pacific is the ultimate Social Studies musical. First, most students have never been to a musical. I wanted them to learn, but I also wanted them to see something beautiful...that, in my perspective, has some of the most beautiful songs in musical theater.

Their textbook is pretty dry, so supplemental learning is essential. They are shy students, largely below the poverty line, and the community has a lot of crystal meth. I hope for them that by getting involved at their school'd production, they will learn that there are more exciting forms of entertainment than violent video games, violent movies, sexually explicit TV shows, and generally a lot of corse behavior in the entertainment they consume. It's sad but true when i say that those things are raising them. Some parents are just so consumed by their addiction it is tragic to see students where school is the most positive thing in their lives, an island of normalcy in a sea of, well, issues that are beyond their years. It's a win-win: they get extra credit, and I trick them into learning. :-) Anyway, the show's this week. Finger's crossed!

By the way, my World History students will be having a tea party when Duchess Kate gives birth. Why? A. It gives me an excuse to give them my lecture on the history of the British East India company while they get to sample the teas of China and India. B. They have never had a tea party. They know I go all out for Afternoon Tea parties as a UK-US dual citizen. C. The culinary arts students will be working on the food with our school's excellent to cater the event. I told their teacher all the food must have ingredients from the British empire.

Regards, Julia

P.S. The arts teach the same skills as sports: there's team building, problem solving, practice, practice, practice, and something to be proud of at the end. And the football players I teach have to take a ballet lesson from their coach to get their footwork nimble. It's pretty cool.

PPS On an aside, we're studying the French Revolution. I took a trip to Versailles on Bastille Day a few years ago and am dying to show them what extravagance looks like based on the photos I took. I befriended some French pilots in training in Alaska last year. After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, I emailed the pilots my condolences. They wrote back and I read the response to my students. They loved it. Although they are geographically removed from France, they really enjoyed his letter because he talked about Liberty, Equality, Fraternity form the basis of the French personality as a nation. He wrote that self-expression and freedom of the press cannot be dissociated from the French identity. I hope my students will be able to understand his words as we continue to learn about the French Revolution and the dawn of people power.

Renee said...

Yes, yes, yes! One thing that has surprised and delighted me is how much my kids (ages 3.5 and 5) like classical music. It's what their grandfather mostly listens to and they LOVE their grandpa, so anything he likes is good for them! They prefer classical music to pop, although we are also working on their classic rock and folk music education. One of their favorite shows, which your kids might also appreciate, is Little Einsteins-- 4 kids in a rocket solving mysteries and problems with classical music and art worked in. Now when we listen to the classical music station my girls can actually name a number of pieces because they heard them on Little Einsteins. (We also have and watch Fantasia and Fantasia 2000, which are also wonderful vehicles for introducing classical music to kids.)

Rose said...

It is so encouraging to see so much discussion on this topic, thank you for raising it Jennifer.

Participating in the arts be it through our writing, playing of instruments, making art or whatever is so important. Creativity helps us create balance in our lives and it stimulates our thinking, through our creative endeavours we seek out what others are doing for inspiration -- so the cultural wheel turns.

For me one of the best parts of "At Home with Mme Chic" was your lists of music recommendations for various parts of the day. These suggestions helped me expand my music library, my enjoyment and my knowledge of music.

I think an interesting exercise would be for DC readers to suggest one piece of music or film or art that they love -- what inspiration for others!

Unknown said...

I think 'Ladylike' hits the nail on the head when she says that people want to 'zone out' rather than being responsible for their lives. It is to do with working at your life, making things happen, rather than being passive. It does take effort to get off the sofa and leave the house, to plan things, buy tickets, travel into town on a rainy day - I sometimes feel as though I am dragging my family behind me when I try to do this. But, those are the days we remember - not the ones where we flopped on the sofa, but the ones where we gave something a try. Sometimes I have to offer bribes - such as a cake in the cafe at the gallery.But that works for me, too!

Dani said...

Because of the influence of your books and blog, Jennifer, when my parents asked for birthday and Christmas ideas for my husband and I last year, they gave us the most enriching experiences: a one year membership to our art gallery (for the both of us) as well as tickets for four symphonies throughout the year).

You spoke of how it's challenging for organizations to get people to patron the arts: our city's symphony had a promotion where new subscriber households could get buy-one-get-one tickets for the four symphonies throughout the year. It's been such a lovely gift because every few months we have another concert to go to and in some way this has earned extra points for the in-laws in my husband's eyes...


Unknown said...

Thanks for the post,Jennifer. One of my New Year's resolutions was to attend a weekly cultural event, which has certainly been enriching but also a bit expensive. Although I am able to attend wonderful concerts at a local music school and volunteer at my local theater as a way to both support local arts and ease the financial burden of doing so, I have to acknowledge that the cost of this indulgence may still be too much for many families on a budget.

Another potentially sticky wicket in this discussion is the difficulty in holding such high standards for yourself while not ostracizing or seeming to judge family, friends and/or coworkers for their choices. It's great if I can wrangle a friend into attending a cultural event with me and potentially expose them to something they never thought they would enjoy, but I certainly don't want to perceived as snobbish.

Anyway, great topic and I'm happy to see such a lively discussion of it!

Anonymous said...

"The arts" has a major PR problem. Perhaps they would be less ignored if people of more modest means knew that there were affordable ways of seeking out the arts. I think that would make an excellent follow-up to this video, and to play on one of your wardrobe video themes: The Arts at Every Budget :)

While I respect your view of popular culture I do think you're being anti-intellectual. What does it say about our society or the current state of the world that such mindless drivel passes for entertainment? Many peoples' lives are very tough right now: reality television is affordable escapism for folks who can't step out of the drudgery of their everyday by, say taking a vacation. There is very little variety in what Hollywood is producing, but perhaps the real issue is that they haven't yet adjusted to the new ways that people consume movies and television and are going for a limited, but dependable, audience.

Catelijne said...

To Jo K: 'those are the days we remember - not the ones where we flopped on the sofa, but the ones where we gave something a try'
That is so true! Doing something other than sitting on the couch is much more enriching.

I do recognize the dumbing down in my country as well (Netherlands). I showed some friends my new appartment and they were shocked to see that I don't have a television.'Why don't you want/have one?' they asked. I replied 'I don't watch that much tv, I think it is boring.' You should have seen their faces. I do however, watch 2 programmes on my laptop. So I watch 1,5 hour television a week. And these are more educational, not on a 'commercial channel' (we have 'commercial channels' and more educational channels -> more controlled by the government. Maybe they know this concept in all other countries too?).
My weakness is the internet. Because of moving to another appartment, I had no internet for a month. I came to realise how much time I spend on the internet. Now that I know, I try (try!) to limit myself.
Now I read more books, exercise more, meet friends more, go to bed on a right time (and feel better).

To cultivate my mind I do love to go to musea. I have a so called 'Museumjaarkaart' you pay 50euros for one year 'free' visits to musea. I live near Amsterdam so I've already seen a lot of interesting musea.
I think I'm raised pretty 'cultivated': classical ballet for 15 years, played (classical) piano for 10 years..and my brother and I at least chose once a year a play in the theater to see. I love the arts!

P.s. do you (or do any of you) have any recommendations for interesting movies to watch? I do not always like to see movies (feels again like wasting my time), though I would like to try movies with more'meaningful stories'.

Love your blog, Jennifer. Keep going! Really looking forward to your thirth book.

Anonymous said...

I think that most people partake of "dumbed down" entertainment because of herd mentality; they don't want to be the only ones who don't know the latest on the Kardashians. They want to fit in. And that is part of the problem. No one seems to want to stand apart... to be different than anyone else. Those of us who not only don't mind, but revel in being different than popular culture dictates stand out and are branded as "elitist". (I've been called that. And what is wrong with that, I ask?) We cut the cable to our TV long ago, when we realized that we had a hundred channels of absolute rubbish, and the only show we watched regularly was The Daily Show. It just wasn't worth the extra money. We have Netflix for series we actively want to watch, and a lot of shows can be accessed from the computer. But you know... I'm just not inclined to be bothered watching shows on a daily basis anymore. I have better things to do with my time. I read voraciously, cook from scratch, meditate, exercise daily... all things that people usually say they have no time for. Well, guess what? You would if you turn off the TV, step away from Facebook, and live your life, instead of passively watching someone else's.

ilsa said...

Dear Jennifer,

I fully agree with the week's topic..

I live in Spain and the last 15 years tv shows, magazines and films looks like we are all teenagers without taste or criteria..

And considering your video and the comments looks like we are not "alone".. I think we live in a "fast food" culture... no time to loose on things that can make you think!!!!!

It's such a horrible situation that one of the most famous woman in my country , famous for doing nothing , she has an affaiur many years ago with another famous parsonahe, appears every saturdaty on tv and have a salary three times that our Prime Minister!!!

What have we done?????

WHere are the times when being an avid reader, playing some instrument or having a good conversatios was higly considered ???

Where have good manners gone????

I don't want to look pessimistic but sometimes it's difficult to go agains the tide....

Luckily we still have BBC series, classical music, classics books and blogs like yours that tell us that we are not alone .. we are quiter and surely not having zillions of followers but we are not alone in our oursuit..

In the meantime I'm preparing my Reading for the next summe hollidays.. A la recherchedu temps perdu.. and this time in French!!

Thanks again for your inspiration

Regards from Spain

Amy said...

I just watched "Ida" - the wonderful Polish movie that won an Academy Award last week - I think it is brilliant. It's streaming on Netflix.

Meredith said...

I completely agree with the importance of learning and not being dumbed down. However, any suggestions on how to do this without feeling and sounding pretentious? My family and friends already think I'm a little nuts that I actually enjoy reading.

chris said...

Everyone raises some good points. And it feels like a shame that we do not do more to access the accumulated human marvels of art and literature and music. Let's just not forget to balance it out and to be open-minded to the rest of entertainment being offered out there.

As long as we bring passion and true engagement to whatever we consume, then our choices are valid, and should be respected. (And even when it's not. I do think we need both mindfulness and mindlessness in our lives, like the balance of energy and rest, work and play, new and old, the exciting and the comfortable.)

It is good to venture out of our comfort zones. But to find something you love wholeheartedly is a gift, no matter how high-brow or low-brow that is considered.

And I guess we could do with more challenging intellectual stimulation and we need to push ourselves and maybe push back against the things in culture that we dislike... but let's just try to avoid the snobbery that could lead to. I'm more interested in getting everyone to participate in culture, no matter what kind. From making music, art or literature, to getting involved in your community and fighting for change in your little corner of the world.

(I hope I made sense here. I did love everyone's examples and experiences. But as a lit major, I have to admit I still love sci fi and fantasy books more than I do most classics. I did read when I was younger a wise piece of advice from Susan Cooper to bring your kids to the theatre and I tried to do that for my younger siblings. At a certain point, though, kids grow up and you have to let them make their own choices, be it clothes or music or even whether they read or not. So the window of exposure and parental influence is smaller than we think. Haha.)

chris said...

If you are afraid to seem pretentious then approach everything from the point of view of a student. For instance, I don't know anything about jazz or classical music or paintings but I would like to. Read about it, try out some CDs from the library, visit galleries, let your curiosity guide you. Ask questions from people who know more than you do. There's nothing pretentious about that.

The most exciting thing about this post is the idea of taking charge of your own education even when you are already out of school.

Vicki Zimmerman said...

This is simply wonderful and I'll be sharing your video. You've given such inspiring ways to infuse the arts within our homes and outside in the world.

Your title reminds me of the late comedian and intellectual, Steve Allen, who wrote a booked titled "Dumbth: The Lost Art of Thinking With 101 Ways to Reason Better & Improve Your Mind," and here's his definition for Dumbth (pron. dum
-th) adj: a tendency toward muddleheadedness, or willful stupidity appearing in all segments of American life.

I saw this on Amazon and smiled as it was so relevant to your topic.

Thank you, Jennifer.

karen said...

Great ideas. I'm also enjoying reading other ideas in the comments.

Evaline said...

I have never eaten a meal at McDonalds.

I don't eat meat and make 95% of my meals from scratch.

People around me wear stretched out faded t-shirts and leggings. ..I dress up.

People around me enjoy violent sports...I don't.

I read literature, listen to a vast array of music including world, classical, jazz, blues, rock and pop and have an enviable music library and good quality speakers to do these artists justice.

Within my modest means I collect original art and pottery and get much pleasure from this.

I don't have cable. I love movies, in particular French and other European films and those from South America.

I support the arts.

I do NOT pretend to like these things...I came out of the womb like this. My sisters and brothers each have their own tastes which include reality TV and junk food. We respect each others choices.

Have the intellectual fortitude to appreciate what you really like and the courage to live your own life. Why look for ways to not look snobby?

Respect others and do your own thing. Imagine the courage it takes for an author to put their thoughts on paper, for a musician to share their notes and lyrics with the world, for a painter to show their work in a world that has already produced Vermeer and Rembrandt. An actor has to perform a play and then stand and wait for the applause.

The least we can do is to be genuine and forthright about what we ourselves appreciate.

Ladylike said...

The participation in this post is very nearly bringing tears of joy to my eyes. I want to reply to Chris. Thank you for your fair minded comment, Chris. I want to make sure you know that some sci fi and fantasy books ARE classics of literature: "War of the Worlds" and "The Hobbit" for example. I love classics but I also enjoy light mysteries with recipes. This is okay. There is folk art and folk music. Rag dolls can be art. I think that what most of us are saying is that the things we read/watch/listen to should not be disgusting to the point that it's difficult if not impossible to identify the artistry. As for raising children, yes, the window of opportunity is small, but this is only because children grow up so quickly. Parents can have as much or as little influence as they choose. My oldest is going to be 15 next month, and I can't tell you how the time has flown by. This is why it's crucial to be vigilant and to make the most of each moment. I have even had arguments with my son's "appreciation of the arts" teacher and kept him home when she was showing films that were more entertaining than educational, if they contained graphic violence as entertainment or graphic drug use, for example. I think parents especially need courage to go against the grain and to risk our child's displeasure. They get over it! But they might never be able to forget a disturbing image they saw in a film or on TV. I am happy to report that my children seem to be growing into delightful young people. Now It's time for me to make dinner for my family using a recipe from one of those mysteries. I feel thankful to everyone for your thoughtful, encouraging engagement in this discussion.

JenniLouLou said...


You are wise beyond your years. Would that more women your age thought and care as you do. So much of American culture has become crass, vulgar, stupid, and idiotic--as you say. I, for one, wish "Reality TV" (right? real reality, me thinks not) would go away. The Price is Right is all the Reality TV we need--Can the Karadashians and Jenners just go away--please? Like now, today? Who watches this stuff. Not me--and I don't anyone who does. But, someone is watching because if it wasn't making money it wouldn't be on--perhaps we are now a nation of "what a hot mess" voyeurs?

Camelot, CA

Unknown said...

I am surprised that no one has mentioned all the wonderful knowledge one can obtain through The Teaching Company courses. Courses in music, art, literature, science, math, history, health, and religion all taught by some of the best professors in the country. We have listened or watched so many of the courses and have never been disappointed. As an extra bonus, although the courses can be purchased, almost all public libraries have them to check out for free. One course we listened to was "Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know" Another was "The U.S. and the Middle East:1914 to 9/11." One of the first ones we listened to was "Medieval Heroines in History and Legend" about Hildegard of Bingen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Joan of Arc (who knew there were actual transcripts from her trial)and we have not stopped since. No need to be dumped down with such wonderful resources readily available.

Unknown said...

I am surprised that no one has mentioned all the wonderful knowledge one can obtain through The Teaching Company courses. Courses in music, art, literature, science, math, history, health, and religion all taught by some of the best professors in the country. We have listened or watched so many of the courses and have never been disappointed. As an extra bonus, although the courses can be purchased, almost all public libraries have them to check out for free. One course we listened to was "Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know" Another was "The U.S. and the Middle East:1914 to 9/11." One of the first ones we listened to was "Medieval Heroines in History and Legend" about Hildegard of Bingen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Joan of Arc (who knew there were actual transcripts from her trial)and we have not stopped since. No need to be dumped down with such wonderful resources readily available.

Unknown said...

One of my favorite quotes that I have tacked on my board by my desk:
"One ought,
Every day at least,
To hear a little song,
Read a good poem,
See a fine picture,
And, if it were possible,
To speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

Thank you Jennifer for your words of inspiration and encouragement. I do feel that as a society will settle with the lowest denominator if not challenged. Our brains were made for so much more- to explore, to create, to learn more about the world and the people around us. www.wellofencouragment.blogspot.com

Amy said...

Sarah, I'm currently taking one of the Teaching Company courses right now - "Classics of American Literature."

Great resource.

Unknown said...

I think part of the problem is a lack of exposure in childhood to world class art, music and literature. Children get dumbed down starting at school level because the art, music programs are no longer part of the curriculum. Typical American child's entertainment is to go to a baseball game or an amusement park. Very few people (mostly residents of big cities) have access to a quality lifestyle. In Europe you just have to step out of your apartment to be surrounded by culture...

Anonymous said...

Bravo again Jennifer...Yup - I'm tired of the Kardashians & Kanye West from sucking the air out of the American 'dialogue'!! Heaven help us - how do we get them to retire from their non-lives?

My girls are now in their early twenties, but when they were in grade school, I'd take them to the Metropolitan Museum (MET - we live in NYC) after school and they would pick a masterpiece to sketch. Like you, we made a point of discussing topics with the girls over dinner. They both ended up attending very good colleges. And even today when they are not under my wing anymore, I treat them to a ballet performance during the season and we often to go to the theatre. I try to make a point to ask them, "What are you reading?". When I call my 88 year-old mother for a chat - a woman who would have loved to have gone to college but couldn't & didn't - but who reads voraciously every day - I ask her as well, "what are you reading?"- and she loves to sum up her latest literary find. Approaching her ninth decade, reading excites my mother more than anything....she doesn't get around much anymore...but she loves her armchair, literary 'journeys'; Reading has been a big bond between us.

In sum, we have to encourage each other to stretch our minds, perceptions and experiences. We have to invite friends to attend events with us, to recommend books and to help us experience and enjoy the world to the utmost.

Bravo to you for reminding us!!

Jess @UsedYorkCity said...

Love, love, love this video, Jennifer! One of the things we try to implement in our household is rather than give gifts of material possessions (clothes, gadgets, etc.), to give the gift of something that will inspire us and help us to grow as a person. For me, I love getting theater tickets (living in NYC makes this very accessible), and my husband loves reading about chefs and trying new restaurants.

Keep up the wonderful work, you are such an inspiration!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this video. My husband and I discuss this topic almost daily. We have three young boys 10, 6 & 5. We try so hard to instill these things and hope they enjoy things other than video games and TV. It is so hard when all of their friends only want to do those things. It is an uphill battle for sure, but we aren't giving up! It so wonderful to know others feel the same way that we do.

Nana said...

Read a book - a good one, no fifty shades of grey - and you will feel really more smart.
Bj e fk c Deus.

Unknown said...

I am so inspired! For a long time I have been an enthusiast for the history, classic literature, and the arts. That can be so tough in today's culture, where sympathizers seem few and far between. But I know they are out there, and that all is NOT lost. I, too, refuse to be dumbed down. My piano, my books, and my fetishes for theater, art, ballet, and quality film will not suffer neglect. More than once I have slipped into the unpoetic strides of pop culture, so thanks, Jennifer, for the reality check.

Lollyg said...

This conversation is a breath of fresh air. My husband and I have also not had cable TV for 10 years. When we stay in a hotel, we anticipate having TV in our hotel with a little excitement, after hearing about all the "great" shows people are watching.

After 5 minutes (or less, actually), we are appalled, and turn it off! We enjoy the PBS shows on our laptop, and can get the important news that way as well. We miss nothing essential.

I would like to recommend the books "The Well Trained Mind" and "The Well Educated Mind", both by Susan Wise Bauer. These are courses of study to help those without a classical education study, learn and think. They are appropriate for adults.

While she wrote these to supplement home schooling curriculums (I think), there is no agenda at all, just a wonderful set of lessons for expanding our knowledge.

Keep up the good work! This video has inspired me to be sure to seek out the arts this weekend!
Thank you,

Unknown said...

The local library is a convenient step in cultivating a rich inner life, no matter one's age.

Years ago, our local library had framed art prints that you could check out. My parents taught us a but if art history this say. I still remember exactly where Mom hung the prints in the living room. I'd gaze at them and think about what a big, mysterious world it was. It still is!

Amber said...

I love this. I would add my own two cents, as the wife of a professional theater scholar and artist, that we also need to remember that for the continuation of art and culture we need to be supporting modern and new art. The classics are classic because they are great and we should all get to expereince an amazing ballet performance of swan lake, not only for the dance but for the music. But we should equally give our time to smaller groups and new works. for example; go to new works night at your local theater or college, instead of buying another amazing cezzane art print frequent your local artist market find someone who's work you connect with and buy an original, go see small troupe performances of dance and symphony. for the arts to sustain into the future we need to help the people who make art by supporting their ability to make their own original works. Art is a living process, lets engage with it! Thank you Jennifer

D. said...

Thank you for offering such a meaningful commentary, and being a conscience for our culture as a whole. As usual, you are spot on. Yours is the only blog I visit week after week, because you inspire me to turn off my electronics, and dig my nose into a book, or make a beautiful meal, or clean my home, or tend to my garden.
All the best,

Evaline said...

If Ella Kova's comment that art and music are no longer part of the curriculum in American schools, then that is a very significant factor in this discussion. If children are not exposed to the arts in school, then when, where and how are they supposed to learn an appreciation for them?

Does all the responsibility for art and music education now fall to the parents?

Can we lobby our school boards and governments about what our children are learning?

I don't have the answers.

Unknown said...

Excellent video/post! I also kind of despair sometimes about what often passes for entertainment - reality TV, violence, celebrity gossip, lowbrow humour, people being horrible to each other. It's like mental junk food.

I grew up in Montreal, but now live in a small town where the conversational currency is often "did you see The Bachelor last night?", so it can be a challenge. But I will not give in! :) Art, culture, books, quality entertainment are there - we just have to seek them out and patronize them. The neat thing is that when you go to something like the symphony or a play or theatre - even to listen to an acoustic guitarist in a coffee shop - you meet like- minded others. I find it a good antidote to the "the world is going to hell" thoughts that I sometimes have, and we get to be part of conversations about something other than reality TV.

Bliss said...

I wanted to let you know that this is one of those videos I have returned to time and time again, to encourage and remind me of the importance of arts and culture in my life. A few years ago, I took up tap dancing which has been a source of absolute joy in my life! I also try to play the piano as often as I can (I took 13 years of lessons) but I find myself impatient with trying to learn new pieces...I think, however, that I should literally consider it brain therapy (to ward away future dementia?) and just try to work on something daily, even just for 15 minutes. I have also made it a goal to join a community choir in the next year. My world (and that of my children) can only be improved by keep the arts important in our home.