When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.

— Neil Postman

The most superior Neil Postman quotes to discover and learn by heart

Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.

63

Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other.

They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and comercials.

61

If parents wish to preserve childhood for their own children, they must conceive of parenting as an act of rebellion against culture

55

It is not necessary to conceal anything from a public insensible to contradiction and narcotized by technological diversions.

54

We are more naive than those of the Middle Ages, and more frightened, for we can be made to believe almost anything.

38

Everything we know has its origins in questions.

Questions, we might say, are the principal intellectual instruments available to human beings.

38

Through the computer, the heralds say, we will make education better, religion better, politics better, our minds better — best of all, ourselves better. This is, of course, nonsense, and only the young or the ignorant or the foolish could believe it.

36

People in distress will sometimes prefer a problem that is familiar to a solution that is not.

35

Once you have learned to ask questions - relevant and appropriate and substantial questions - you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know.

31

It is a mistake to suppose that any technological innovation has a one-sided effect. Every technology is both a burden and a blessing; not either-or, but this-and-that.

23

The making of adaptable, curious, open, questioning people has nothing to do with vocational training and everything to do with humanistic and scientific studies.

23

There is no escaping from ourselves. The human dilemma is as it has always been, and we solve nothing fundamental by cloaking ourselves in technological glory.

23

About Neil Postman

Quotes 91 sayings
Profession Author
Birthday October 16

Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.

22

The shock of twentieth-century technology numbed our brains and we are just beginning to notice the spiritual and social debris that our technology has strewn about us.

20

When two human beings get together, they're co-present, there is built into it a certain responsibility we have for each other, and when people are co-present in family relationships and other relationships, that responsibility is there. You can't just turn off a person. On the Internet, you can.

16

We can make the trains run on time but if they are not going where we want them to go, why bother?

16

An educated mind is practiced in the uses of reason, which inevitably leads to a skeptical outlook.

13

'The scientific method,' Thomas Henry Huxley once wrote, 'is nothing but the normal working of the human mind.' That is to say, when the mind is working; that is to say further, when it is engaged in correcting its mistakes.

12

Computers are merely ingenious devices to fulfill unimportant functions.

The computer revolution is an explosion of nonsense.

12

Public schooling does not serve a public; it creates a pubic.

10

We do not measure a culture by its output of undisguised trivialities but by what it claims as significant.

10

Technology always has unforeseen consequences, and it is not always clear, at the beginning, who or what will win, and who or what will lose.

10

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.

From a biological point of view it is inconceivable that any culture will forget that it needs to reproduce itself. But it is quite possible for a culture to exist without a social idea of children. Unlike infancy, childhood is a social artifact, not a biological category.

8

Television screens saturated with commercials promote the utopian and childish idea that all problems have fast, simple, and technological solutions. You must banish from your mind the naive but commonplace notion that commercials are about products. They are about products in the same sense that the story of Jonah is about the anatomy of whales.

7

TV serves us most usefully when presenting junk-entertainment;

it serves us most ill when it co-opts serious modes of discourse - news, politics, science, education, commerce, religion.

7

The written word endures, the spoken word disappears

7

I mean to suggest that without a transcendent and honorable purpose, schooling must reach its finish, and the sooner we are done with it, the better.

6

I am not a Luddite. I am suspicious of technology. I am perfectly aware of its benefits, but I also try to pay attention to some of the negative effects.

6

Certainty abolishes hope, and robs us of renewal.

6

[M]ost of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action. (68).

6

Make no mistake about it: the labeling of someone's language as 'sexist' involves a political judgment and implies the desirability of a particular sociological doctrine. One may be in favor of that doctrine (as I believe I am) but it is quite another matter to force writers by edicts and censorship into accepting it.

5

Printing links the present with forever. It carries personal identity into realms unknown.

5

But it is much later in the game now, and ignorance of the score is inexcusable.

To be unaware that a technology comes equipped with a program for social change, to maintain that technology is neutral, to make the assumption that technology is always a friend to culture is, at this late hour, stupidity plain and simple.

5

Education Research: This is a process whereby serious educators discover knowledge that is well known to everybody, and has been for several centuries. Its principal characteristic is that no one pays any attention to it.

4

. . . Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people in the Western world.

4

Typography fostered the modern idea of individuality, but it destroyed the medieval sense of community and integration.

3

In Russia, writers with serious grievances are arrested, while in America they are merely featured on television talk shows, where all that is arrested is their development.

3

Watching television requires no skills and develops no skills.

That is why there is no such thing as remedial television-watching.

3

...there must be a sequence to learning, that perseverance and a certain measure of perspiration are indispensable, that individual pleasures must frequently be submerged in the interests of group cohesion, and that learning to be critical and to think conceptually and rigorously do not come easily to the young but are hard-fought victories.

3

For in the end, he was trying to tell us what afflicted the people in 'Brave New World' was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.

3

Our priests and presidents, our surgeons and lawyers, our educators and newscasters need worry less about satisfying the demands of their discipline than the demands of good showmanship.

3

I don't think any of us can do much about the rapid growth of new technology.

A new technology helps to fuel the economy, and any discussion of slowing its growth has to take account of economic consequences. However, it is possible for us to learn how to control our own uses of technology.

2

Textbooks, it seems to me, are enemies of education, instruments for promoting dogmatism and trivial learning. They may save the teacher some trouble, but the trouble they inflict on the minds of students is a blight and a curse.

2

Nothing could be more misleading than the idea that computer technology introduced the age of information. The printing press began that age, and we have not been free of it since.

2

A metaphor is not an ornament. It is an organ of perception. Through metaphors, we see the world as one thing or another.

2

For the message of television as metaphor is not only that all the world is a stage but that the stage is located in Las Vegas, Nevada.

2

[It] is not that television is entertaining but that it has made entertainment itself the natural format for the representation of all experience. […] The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining. (87)

2

The television commercial is not at all about the character of products to be consumed. It is about the character of the consumers of products. (128)

1

Cyberspace' is a metaphorical idea which is supposed to be the space where your consciousness is located when you're using computer technology on the Internet, for example, and I'm not entirely sure it's such a useful term, but I think that's what most people mean by it.

1
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