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Television can be used as a learning toolPosted Wednesday, October 26, 2011, at 2:12 PM
A popular young adult novelist was the target of hateful emails in June -- simply because her publisher purchased ad time that aired during a popular teen television show, according to the writer's blog.
Sarah Dessen's new book, "Whatever Happened to Goodbye" hit stores recently, and a conservative Florida-based group is asking advertisers to ban Teen Nick and MTV because they air the television show Degrassi.
As teenagers, my best friend and I were hooked on the show after it started airing in 2001. We would stay up past our bed time at her parent's when we were about 13-years-old to catch the show on The N.
The show was realistic, but obviously had some dramatizations to make the story line more intriguing.
Most teenage-oriented stories tell about heartbreaks and family issues, but none of the truly terrifying things some teenagers have to go through behind the scenes.
The conservative group apparently were banning the channels because they aired the show that addressed issues a female-to-male transgender student at the fictional Degrassi High School had to face.
That seems like the point of the show -- to show teenagers they are not alone in any of the struggles they may have to face.
One of the main characters went through a lot in the show, more than the average person. Although, her role showed teenagers how to be strong and stand up for yourself, even when it feels like the world is against you.
Paige was the girl everyone else wanted to be like at Degrassi High School -- the pretty, popular cheerleader. She is often seen as the mean girl, lashing out at other students and her friends.
Degrassi gave us a look at the girl who tortured everyone else, and made us realize that sometimes living the ideal life isn't actual ideal.
Paige showed girls how to stand up against their fears when she was taken advantage of by a peer. She was strong enough to take the boy to court and face him, even after she lost the case due to lack of evidence.
Other issues included the hardships of a dealing with physical limitations and facing terrifying illnesses.
Should our kids be shielded from this reality? Should we change the channel every time something comes on we don't want to face?
Jimmy, now known as hip-hop artist Drake, was forced to use a wheelchair during his days at Degrassi, after being shot in the back. He became angry with the world and paranoid about his body, until he finally realized that being angry wouldn't change his paraplegic state.
Most of the characters have dealt with identity issues and eventually found themselves. Drugs and alcohol are experimented with, only to find they are not worth risking their lives over.
We can't spend our lives shutting out the negativity. Bad things happen to everyone, even if they don't normally all happen in one high school.
Dessen commented on her website's blog in response to the more than 100 emails she received after the airing of the advertisement.
"I will say this, though. I don't watch Degrassi, it came along after my time. But I believe in equal rights for ALL people, regardless of race, sex, or sexual orientation. If that makes me 'depraved' and 'lacking integrity' (both things I have been accused of today, more than once) then, well, OK. I'll take it. I was raised to stand by what I believe, and I believe in equality. You don't have to agree with me. That's what's great about this world. But you don't have to be nasty about it, either," Dessen wrote.
This show is reality, not like today's unrealistic reality television. Honestly, I don't care if Paris Hilton can live on a farm, or if a rich housewife can deal with her bratty kids and nosy friends.
I care more about what my peers may have faced, or how I should address issues brought to my attention as my niece and nephews grow up.
A newer television sensation, Glee, has taken on some of these issues as well, just on a lighter scale. Homosexuality, teen pregnancy and a strange student-to-teacher attraction holds the attention of viewers.
Shouldn't our teenagers and young adults be prepared for the uncertainties of the future they will face, or should they think Flavor Flav -- a clock wearing, washed up hip-hop artist -- getting a date is at the top of everyone's priority list?
Television has become part of many people's routines, and if we are going to watch it we might as well utilize it as a learning tool.
Sabrina is a staff writer for the Greene County Daily World. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by telephone at 847-4487.
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