- A circular question, dangerous to get into, and once in, you would never be able to get out of it! A rhetorical question gone bad, twisted logic, twisted analogy; akin to getting to prove the statement, ‘You need light to read, feathers are light, so you need feathers to read!’ wrong! The irony of the above statement came to light during a debate session that I was undertaking with my grade nine students in English.The matter came to a head when one group young and zesty debaters entered into a lively discussion about whether the ‘Media is to Blame for the crimes taking place in the society’-the topic of the debate for the day. They were very polite in their interjections, observations and rebuttals and very passionate too, but then I knew very well that I would have to step in at some time or the other knowing well that the debate could go on and on endlessly like a perpetual pendulum.A highly controversial topic, and the teacher was fully aware about the storm it was likely to create.
One enterprising student talked about how some films had a bad effect on impressionable young minds and how he was aghast on watching ‘American Pie’. A student from the audience making the interjection literally tore him to bits by asking him what he was doing watching a film that was meant for adults! Another observation was that if the media did have a negative influence on young and impressionable minds, you still had the choice and sense of not going for them! However the fact of the matter is that young students have curious minds, and they would be always curious about the contents of a ‘forbidden or out of bounds’ box. Another debater, a girl however stated quite frankly that she thought that the media was not bad, it was merely a mirror of the society and was in essence it was only what was a reality. To this argument, another student interjected with the statement that it was the responsibility of the media to portray only that with was good, and to this there was a follow up by yet another student suggesting stricter censorship norms. The debate went on, and yet another student made an observation that censorship would be detrimental to the freedom of the media to portray the world as it is, and that censoring would only provide an unfair and inaccurate picture of the world! Observers, debaters and those making interjections came to the conclusion that the medial including newspapers, and celluloid intentionally resorted to sensationalism in order to boost TRP ratings and ensure a healthy cash flow. Some of the interesting rebuttals included ideas like: ‘Nothing sells like violence, bloodshed,celebration of the anti-hero (as Jack Nicholson as the Joker in the film Batman) and somehow the glorification of crime as something that gives a sort of vicarious thrill!’
Finally the teacher did step in not that he wanted to, but then he had to tell them that they had done a good job, apart from the minor deviations they had made from the expectations mentioned in the rubric. The session was concluded with a parting shot by their teacher with the words, ‘Both the media and the society are interconnected and to blame one and praise the other would be unfair logically!’ and then he beat a hasty retreat having whipped up another round of interjections, rebuttals, and observations. The teacher was pleased, however with the way the events had taken place, and what mattered the most was the level of engagement that was displayed by the participants. Strangely enough the students had followed the norms of the parameters of the debate which had been clearly written on the green board. The arguments might have bordered on a high level of excitement, but then the credit went to the students who accepted the boundaries of acceptable etiquette.
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