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Sunday, May 01, 2011

The American Experience can be greater

American Experience (the television program on PBS) rarely if ever brings unusual knowledge to the common understanding but generally summarizes knowledge, viewpoints, and ideas that were already among the common understanding and/or common knowledge.

That is not a bad thing.  Common knowledge is often in disarray and can use ordering and prioritizing from time to time. Indeed there are many people that just do not know what many people know.  There are also important or pertinent facts that are outside typical interest of your typical American and programs like this deliver these facts.



Yet despite the utility of this sort of education the program can be frustrating; it has served at times as a sort of tease.
A particular series of episodes is that of The Presidents.
In all, The Presidents is comprised of 52 hours of broadcast programming detailing the lives of people who collectively held the most powerful office in the world.
I enjoy the Ronald Reagan episode and even learned some from it.  I learn a little something from every episode I watch.

The tease comes when it mentions something that is not as common in terms of knowledge and in part due to the time frame of the respective film will not elaborate on it. The most frustrating example is The Kennedys.  The 1992 documentary covers the contemporary (albeit 20th century) politicians of John F. Kennedy, Jr's generation, covering the President, Robert F. Kennedy, and Senator Ted Kennedy.  The documentary starts with good and appropriate coverage of John F. Kennedy, the father of the famous President, and then the older brother of that President before it continues on the most commonly known figures of the family.

The film mentions that this is a dynasty, and two generations covered does not make the case; what makes the case is the offhand references to President Kennedy's grandfather and the mention that he was a political figure of some sort as well.  That what we are told concerning President Kennedy's grandfather is simply that he was politically involved, influential , and started the whole clan on the path is made quite irritating when it turns out that that is all we are told about that particular generation.

The stuff that is the least common knowledge, which could make the program the most educational, was simply held back.  I assume it was time constraints, but we put too many constraints on our education.

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