Friday, November 18, 2016

History's turning points:
When we chose TV over goats

Big news: I have discovered a heretofore undocumented moment of extreme importance within our reality1 in the space-time continuum. A crucial pivot in human history. Bigger even than the invention of plastics.

The turning point is this: The moment humankind decided that television is more important goats and reinforced this notion through a popular school textbook.

At the center of this conspiracy is the 1953 textbook Just Imagine!, which was published by Scott, Foresman and Company, and an author named Frances C. Hines.

Just Imagine! was part of The New Basic Reading Program and was described as "a transition reader designed to meet the needs of children as they take the big step from primary to intermediate grades." Apparently, another one of its jobs was to brainwash children and turn them into consumer-culture couch potatoes.

Here's the summary of what happens in "TV and the Goat," by Hines, which is the first story in the textbook:

  • Jack has a pet goat named Hooker.
  • Jack and Hooker play outside in the fresh air every day.
  • Jack learns that his family is getting a TV.
  • Jack ties Hooker to a tree.
  • "So long, Hooker," Jack says.
  • Hooker is sad.
  • Jack doesn't have time to play with Hooker any more.
  • Jack wants to watch cowboy shows on TV.
  • Hooker is sad.
  • Hooker chews through his rope.
  • Hooker watches through the window as his former playmate stares at the television.
  • The next day, Jack comes home from school.
  • Hooker meets Jack at the gate.
  • Jack runs right past Hooker and heads inside for the TV.
  • Hooker is sad.
  • Hooker butts against things to get attention.
  • "You're a bad goat," Jack cries.
  • Hooker is sad.
  • Hooker returns to the porch and makes a commotion.
  • Hooker is ultimately allowed to stare through the window while Jack stares at the TV.
  • That's Hooker's new existence.
  • "Hooker likes to watch the cowboys," Jack says. "Hooker is a TV goat."
  • The End.
  • Bleat.

Wrong, Jack. WRONG. Hooker is not a "TV goat." Hooker misses his playmate. Hooker wants YOU. Hooker wants you to come out in the yard, in the fresh air and sunshine, and play with him.

This is a very damaging and misleading story.

What if, six decades ago, we had rejected television? What if we had chosen goats over TV? What if we could send time-travelers back to the 1950s to influence Frances C. Hines and have her turn this into a pro-goat/anti-TV tale? How might things have turned out differently?2


Then go outside.

1. Reality 47.451e.
2. For one thing, we would have avoided Charles in Charge.



  1. We have had a dramatic reading of this blog post here at home tonight and we also CHOOSE GOATS. But I'm not going outside right now because it is icy and snowing and I'm cold.

  2. Why do we have to choose goats or TV. Can't it be both?! By the way, a Goat named "Hooker" has all the earmarks of crass joke.