Is Channel One an innovative way to teach students? Or is it just another excuse for kids to watch TV and a way for advertisers to capture an audience?
In a 4-1 vote last week, the Davis School Board tentatively approved a plan that would allow North Davis Junior High School in Clearfield to sign an agreement with Whittle Communications, network based in Knoxville, Tenn., that broadcasts a daily news program, called "Channel One," to schools around the country.The agreement would allow Whittle to donate and install a satellite dish, two VCRs and enough TVs for every classroom - provided the entire student body watches the broadcast every day.
But school board member Robert Thurgood, who voted against the proposal, doesn't think it's a good idea.
"Our kids are already spending too much time watching TV," Thurgood said. "I just can't seem to think that kids need more. (The Channel One plan) will further ingrain in their minds that watching TV is OK."
Channel One runs for 12 minutes each school day. Ten minutes of the broadcast deal with news and other educational information presented at a teenager's level. The other two minutes consist of commercial advertisements, which fund the network.
Thurgood said he doesn't believe it's wise to use school time to expose children to advertisements.
It's contradictory, he said, that the board would favor Channel One when two weeks ago it rejected a proposal in which schools could sign patrons up with a particular long-distance company in return for a percentage of the company's profit within the school's boundaries.
Thurgood said he is most concerned, though, that the daily news program will further restrict teacher-student interaction.
"We're paying teachers to instruct - not to turn a TV set on."
Noting that North Davis was one of two junior high schools that scored below predicted ranges in two categories on the Stanford Achievement Tests (SAT) administered last fall, Thurgood said he doesn't think a TV program is going to help that situation.
Board member Louenda Downs said she shares many of Thurgood's concerns but believes that the selective nature of Channel One will ensure that students are exposed to good material. She said she is willing to try Channel One on an experimental basis at the school.
"It would not take the place of any basics. It was my understanding that it wouldn't be at the cost of math or English," Downs said.
What do teachers think?
Joel Briscoe, Davis Education Association president, said he has reservations.
"I'm a little concerned about a program that forces 1,200 kids to submit to two minutes of commercials a day. Teachers really worry about business advertising in schools. I mean, talk about a captive audience."
Briscoe said he is also opposed to the methodology of experimenting with a program at a school whose administration favors the program.
"If they really wanted a fair test, they'd put it in a school that doesn't want it," Briscoe said.
The school board is scheduled to take final action on the Channel One plan at its next meeting, Feb. 5. If the board approves the agreement, the Davis District will join the Granite and Box Elder school districts in adopting the program.
Pros and cons broadcast
The state-appointed Utah Network for Instructional Television voted last year against adopting Channel One.
Here's why, according to Dick Siddoway director of the Davis School District's Library Media Center:
- The 12-minute broadcast would mean an additional reduction of class time by up to 36 hours a year.
- Though most students are exposed to commercials every day, those on Channel One are aimed at a specific, captive audience.
- The quality of news reporting was "not of very high quality and was biased."
- The idea of letting an outside entity determine curricular content was unattractive.The governing body did, however, recognize some benefits:
- Schools would receive a great deal of television, satellite and VCR equipment that can be used for other purposes.
- Some students who never watch the news would get some exposure to current events.
Despite the pros and cons locally, Channel One has one big endorsement - from T.H. Bell, former U.S. secretary of education, who is the chairman of the Council of Advisors for Whittle Communications.