I think that a channel providing education, critical thinking skills, skepticism & educated opinion would be a viable business model if it were done right. It would be a good answer to the problem of getting rational thinking into the mainstream.
In this post, I’ll go through some of the things I’ve thought of and considered. By all means, these are not educated opinions, and and are just based on my limited intuition. They would do well to be critisized by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.
Education as entertainment is essentially an unrealized market, since many post-school people consider themselves “done”. After school, people are so sick of forced, stressful, grade-based education that they usually reject anything to do with learning later on in life. The idea of continuing education for personal pleasure never comes about, and the bad association made in school is cemented.
The education channel can give people knowledge that is a less concentrated, relevant to daily life and stress free. After realizing the practical applications of understanding the world, the watcher can start breaking down negative associations of grade-based education and cultivate better feelings towards understanding and education.
Changes needed in mainstream education media
So called educational media takes a few main formulas: history documentary, hasty challenge, news & science shows. Each of these either have difficulty gaining traction or sometimes fail to deliver knowledge. I’ll go over why I think they’re loosing effectiveness (in my uneducated, intuition-based opinion), and what the education chanel can offer to challenge it.
There’s always a stepping stone needed to bridge history and mainstream entertainment. The strategy in most history shows is to focus on dramatic events in history that involve mystery, suspense and imminent danger and use the drama to intrigue people. This works, but only slightly. It seems to only capture people who are already interested in learning.
A proposed solution is to focus on the lives of individuals and re-create the story as a theatrical movie. The problem with this strategy is that it needs a huge budget so that it won’t come off as cheesy. The acting and all aspects has to be good since it will be compared to hollywood movies. However, it’s extremely effective.
I’m sure there’s many more, but here’s a quick list of historic movies:
-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passion_of_the_christ (fake history, but this example demonstrates the effectiveness)
This type of show is where people compete with limited tools and time to overcome a challenge. The problem is that they don’t focus on educational insights of the process. They’re only entertaining and fail to deliver knowledge to the watcher. But, only a few simple changes are needed to make these shows educationally effective:
*Allow some practical subject material.
(Eg: Job finding, organizing a NPO, managing money, business ownership, cooking, etc.)
*Focus on the tools & terminology.
Give watchers information on the tools used and how they use them to meet the challenge.
*Reduce redicules restraints.
Time challenges rush the process and don’t allow the person to give information about what he’s doing. As well, sometimes tool restrictions don’t allow people to get a grasp of what’s really out there.
The news has become a huge letdown in it’s inibility to deliver meaningful information to the public. The problem is that it focuses more on quickly bringing a breif (and usually drama-loaded) headline to the public, rather than being a means of information on current events. The good thing is that problem can be remidied easily.
*Identify false delemmas
Most of the time the news just gives these either-or scenarios and then get “experts” to fight it out between one extreme point of view and the other. They give the impression that there are only two answers. It never covers the real solutions offered by educated individuals and university organizations. I think the news should show how science and statistical understanding can create better, more comprehensive solutions, rather than knee-jerk, false delemmas which leave the viewer feeling like there are no solutions.
Allow more research on certain topics before giving a report. Give information on what’s going on. Use references and citation.
Many science shows are very vague and give either an vague understanding, or an understanding of the most basic, easy concepts. There are also a number of barriers that don’t make science “fun for all”.
*Introduce intermediate subject matter.
With these science shows, you either get “kiddie science”, or subject matter so tough that they forgo understanding and give you a vague description. It would be nice to see a show that walks the middle and lets the viewer in on some of the more complicated material. By putting out more advanced ideas it reveals to the viewers that they are capable of a greater understanding.
*Create material that’s all-inclusive
Take a cue from family movies like shrek or pixar and make something everyone can enjoy, instead of focusing on one demographic or the other.
Media sources (besides original programming)
There are already many initiatives for informative programming on the internet, as well as many public evangalists for science. I’ll just list some easy sources off the top of my head:
*Seminars & lectures:
University seminar coverage, Prestegious speakers, etc.
Dawkins, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox, Noam Chomsky, Ann Druyan, etc, etc.
There are many syndicated shows that sell their material to PBS, BBS, Discovery & History channel. These shows could be contracted to the learning channel as well.
TED, Big think, Fora.tv
I think funding for an education-based channel would be one of the easiest things to get. For one, it is one of the foremost political concerns in the grant department. I beleive even Obama’s stimulis plan has grants for science education. I’m also pretty sure there are many science, education, school, and university organizations looking to have this kind of media out in the mainstream.
They would also kill at a shot to be represented as a funder of it on a TV channel.
-The public need would need some initial prodding, but may gain a lot of attention if the material is truly informative
-The channel can tweak formulas of pre-existing educational media to make them more educational and effective
-Peripheral media (non-original programming) seems readily available
-Funding for this seems to be available by government, non-profit sectors, and even the public sector
That’s my speil. Thanks for reading, even if you just skimmed it. I wouldn’t hold it against anyone who didn’t read it all.