By request, the AP Lang essay I wrote in class today

Here’s the practice essay we wrote together in class today!

               When I was in the fifth grade, my school chose to participate in National Turn Off Your TV Week. Most of my friends, classmates, and teachers cheerfully flipped the switches on their screens and got their news from old-fashioned print for seven days, but at my house, we couldn’t ever just go along with the crowd. My dad, who had been a TV broadcaster since before I was born, wrote a letter for me to present to my teacher. In it, he wrote, “Television is a fertile ground in which wonderful plants can be grown. But as in any fertile ground, weeds will pop up faster than you can imagine. It is our jobs as viewers, just like it is the job of the farmer, to remove the weeds and be aware of what we are consuming.” These words remind me of Newton Minow’s famous speech in which he claims that television “is an awesome power” but that “it carries with it awesome responsibilities.” Newton is correct in his statement that television is a great force in the world and that it is all of our responsibility to use that for good.

               Watching old episodes of a TV show is often like a window into the past. Not only are shows generally set in the time in which they are made, but they also reflect the contemporary or historical context in which they were made. The ability of television to continue to disseminate values to the masses long after society’s values have changed is one of the “great powers” that must be handled with “great responsibility.” When these responsibilities are handled well, old episodes of TV shows can actually be a force for good. For example, the original Looney Tunes cartoons were beloved and hilarious in their time. When viewed with modern eyes, however, it is clear that most of the humor of these shorts are based on racism, misogyny, bigotry, and generally unacceptable themes. Because of their now-highly-offensive nature, Warner Brothers chose to begin every Looney Tunes DVD with a message explaining that the shorts were being presented without editing, with all the original racism intact, because to censor or edit them would be akin to pretending such bigotry never existed. In putting this message out there, Warner Brothers has acknowledged the atrocities of the past and their continued existence in the present, they have apologized for it, and they have made a strong statement condemning such beliefs.

               Spider-Man teaches us all that with great power comes great responsibility. It is certainly true that television, and now the Internet, are some of the greatest powers that mankind has ever known. With such powers at our fingertips, we would all do well to listen to Peter Parker and Newton Minow and recognize the awesome responsibility we have all taken on.

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