Saturday, June 09, 2007

Volunteerism in Palos Verdes

Last month I had the honor of speaking at a luncheon to say “Thank you” to the volunteers of the Palos Verdes Library. On a sunny day at the Los Verdes Country Club, the room was filled with most of the two-hundred-plus volunteers who give over two thousand hours a month to the Library and raise in excess of $250,000 yearly from the book sales and gift shop.

I mentioned that I’ve been reading a wonderful book by Seymour Martin Lipset called American Exceptionalism. When I looked over the sea of volunteers, I knew what Mr. Lipset was talking about.

Volunteerism is one of the traits that set Americans apart.

More than 80% of Americans belong to a volunteer organization and provide financial support. But even more amazing is the fact that 60% of Americans give their time to a volunteer organization. No other nation comes close.

Today I had the chance to thank the teen volunteers. They are a bright group of over 80 teens who work as computer docents, re-shelf books, do craft exercises with the little kids, raise money from the sale of home-made cookies, and do a host of other things that benefit the Library.

I asked one young lady what else she does besides homework and helping the Library and she said her senior project at PV High was helping Downs Syndrome kids with a form of music/dance therapy -- and her mom mentioned that she also volunteered over 1400 hours to the Assist-Teens organization during high school. These kids are not watching much television.

Speaking of that scourge on American society, the Culture and Media Institute just released the results of a new survey of television usage. The Media Assault on American Values report finds that 1) the public believes American values are in decline, 2) the public believes the media are contributing to this decline and 3) people who watch more television have more permissive attitudes about moral issues.

Strong majorities (74%) believe American values are weaker than they were 20 years ago and that the entertainment media have a negative influence on American values (73%).

The survey looked at attitudes and behaviors of heavy television viewers (four hours or more per evening) compared to light television viewers (one hour or less of TV per evening). Here are some interesting results:

1. Light TV users volunteer much more (73%) than heavy TV users (44%).

2. A majority (51%) of light TV viewers describe themselves as pro-life, compared to only 37% of heavy TV viewers.

3. Light TV viewers are more likely (47%) to attend church weekly, compared to just 28% of heavy viewers.

4. Heavy TV viewers are much more likely (64%) to believe the government should be responsible for providing retirement benefits to Americans, compared to only 43% of light TV viewers.

5. Heavy TV viewers prefer government health care to private health care (63%) compared to only 43% of light TV viewers.

From the Executive Summary of the report, written by Brian Fitzpatrick, Senior Editor, Culture and Media Institute:

“The most telling finding is that increased exposure to television correlates with a decline in acceptance of personal responsibility. According to the survey, the more hours people spend in front of the television, the less likely they are to accept personal responsibility for their own lives and for their obligations to the people around them. They are less likely to conduct themselves honestly, and they are more likely to hold permissive attitudes about moral issues like divorce, extramarital sex, homosexuality and abortion. They are less likely to honor Godly values and religion in public life.”

We need to remember that correlations do not necessarily imply cause and effect. It is possible that TV is contributing to the moral decline or it may be that immoral people tend to watch more TV. It’s probably some of both.

Parents would do well to turn off the TV and send their kids to the Library to study and volunteer. It’s a win-win-win situation.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Bill;
Interesting material. I think Brian Fitzpatrick's comments merit much consideration. While reading the statistics I was thinking that people who don't volunteer are more likely to spend their spare time watching TV,rather than serious study, good reading and playing sports (as opposed
to watching them).

Another, less-related idea came to mind. When (at the 1992 Republican
Convention) Dan Quayle criticised TV as having a negative effect on
family values, he was roundly ridiculed by the media for being narrow minded and harboring old fashioned ideas.

A few years later, when Bill Clinton placed emphasis on family
values, he was complimented by some & ignored by others. I had never heard Dan Quayle complimented on this and I never
heard Clinton ridiculed on it.

The "enlightened" can also be very anti-intellectual when the message
comes from someone they don't respect. About 12 years ago, in an
Omnilore Class, I made comment about an idea that Quayle had
exprressed. A woman ( who was a long-time member) yelled at me:
"Dan Quayle is stupid!!" I inquired as to her thoughts about the idea. She became silent and remained so. Some people will ridicule or ignore the idea because they will not get past their pre-conceived opinion of the messenger.

In the late 1960s there were some in the "Liberal Establishment" who
were never pleased that the "Great Society" programs were enacted
through the efforts of Lyndon Johnson (whom they ridiculed as Vice-President) and not by his predecessor. A north-eastern intellectual was supposed to do this (and get the credit). Not a hick from Texas.

That, in my opinion, is another form of Anti-Intellectualism.


3:47 PM  
Anonymous Jeff C. said...

Interesting post, but I have to question the cause and effect here. Does television really cause people to be less inclined toward personal responsibility? More likely (in my opinion) is that heavy television watchers are just plain lazy and hence would rather have someone else take care of them than do it themselves. Sometimes things aren't as complex as they are made out to be.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Mike and Jeff,
You are absolutely correct about cause-effect. Surely TV watching is the chicken while a lazy mind is the egg. But, like any muscle, the mind needs to be stimulated and TV's stupification factor is instrumental in turning a lazy mind into a moribund mind.

I'n my arguments over principles and policies, the most common response from folks is a reaction to the bearer of the idea (Bush, Quale, Reagan,... me) and almost no reaction to the idea itself. Sadly, I find that intellectual people are not immune to this anti-intellelectual malady.

12:47 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home