The Entertainment Factor
Those of us in agriculture like to say that our advances in our professions freed up time for men to take other jobs. It is a “which came first the chicken or the egg” situation. Industrial/technological inventions helped farmers produce more efficiently, and the farmers’ efficiency helped free up labor for other occupations.
For centuries man’s day was likely filled with similar activity, working, eating, walking, and sleeping with little time for daily entertainment. That did not change much until large numbers of people moved into the cities. I hasten to point out that the city environment had some similar affects on both adults and youth. The available time for entertainment from Moses until the end of the 19th Century changed very little. When the city population went from 10 percent up to 80 percent, extra time for entertainment evolved. Much of the entertainment had to be created in order to give people something to do. Or, more accurately, enterprising people saw a market for entertainment because many people were available as potential customers. Created entertainment more nearly describes the activities for school age people.
Entertainment for Farm Families – Most of the increase in farm production has occurred during my lifetime. Farmers went from producing food for about 20 people to a level of producing enough for more than 150 people. I know something about how farm people spend their time. I was a farm boy, a Dairy Science major in college, a county agent, a PhD in animal science, a college professor in animal science, and for the last 30 years, a farmer. I know what I did with my time in the 1940s as a small child. I know what I did with my time in the 1950s as a teenager; I know what it is like as an adult living in cities (20 years) and how I spent my time. I know what a farmer in this day does with his time. I know what it is like to live on a farm as a 71-year old, as I continue to farm. I know what to do with any spare time I have. Practically all my life I have been associated with agriculture. For most of that period I have also been involved either directly or indirectly with education of young people.
Entertainment in the rural environment was easy for this farm boy. I’ll give some examples of my time growing up on a dairy farm. My dad went to bed about 8:30 p.m. because he arose early to milk the cows. While I didn’t help milk in the mornings, I did do some chores in the morning and finished those in time for breakfast at 7:00 a.m. when the entire family sat down together. After breakfast I did a few more chores before going to school. After school I had more chores and helped milk the 30 cows. Like clockwork, Dad and I entered the house carrying a gallon of milk in a metal can for home use at 6:00 p.m. The entire family sat down at 6:00 for the evening meal. After supper Dad might work in the garden while it was cool, and perhaps I would go hunting groundhogs.
During a three or four week period in September and October before the hunting season opened, I would go to the woods after school each day to sit and watch squirrels.
Because I had work to do on the dairy farm my time in the woods was limited each day, but I really looked forward to that pre-hunting season activity. While I didn’t actually spend a lot of time hunting, the time in the woods when temperatures were nice and the tree foliage was changing provided some genuine joy.
Sports in our public school were a part of our lives. I participated in baseball and basketball, but these activities did not dominate the lives of families involved. All practice for these sports took place in the last hour of the school day, and there were no other practice sessions. Baseball games were held during the afternoon on school days, and basketball games were at night during school days. The activity was enjoyable, but as I analyze it now, there seemed to be more balance with regard to sports time versus family time than some of the sports programs today, even those in rural areas.
Summer brought on projects for me and my cousins like building dams across the creek to make a swimming hole, building tree houses, making carts from junk machinery parts. Then there were 4-H projects, fitting and showing livestock for fairs, the pony rides, more hunting, exploring the five caves within walking distance of home, etc. Creativity was a major part of
summer entertainment as we built things, trained animals, and worked to attain some goal. I remember digging a groundhog out of his borrow, and then placed him in a rabbit cage I had. Of course I didn’t foresee the fact that our farm dog would tear the cage apart the first night and kill the groundhog. I also remember the entertainment some of us got catching bullfrogs by hand at nighttime. It took a flashlight, a stealth technique and a quick hand. My main point is that we did not have to look for things to do on the farm. Lets face it, city folk have never had it so good.
We never had summer baseball practice, because we didn’t have Little League Baseball. The nearest swimming pool was 12 miles away, and it was cold spring water. We really didn’t have time to fret over our lack of a swimming pool. The same can be said about movies; we rarely saw one, but didn’t miss them either. Television viewing was self-limiting in a way because we did not get a TV set until I was about 10-12 years old and there was little programming of interest to me, and besides, my schedule was full anyway. In those days I never heard of a small child watching Saturday morning cartoons. Honestly, I don’t even know if cartoons were on TV then. As I look back and recall our farm life and compare that to the cities full of thousands of children living in an environment where creative, productive work and play opportunities seem to be almost completely lacking among young people, I view their situation as sad. It is as if some unseen master is manipulating their lives in order that these children may become addicted entertainment slaves in a make-believe world. In a like manner, adults have so few options for their leisure time.
To summarize my experience as a farm boy in the 1940s and 50s, work was a way of life for the entire family. We were not overworked. Sure there were some jobs that were not particularly enjoyable, but tell me there is anything wrong with that? Is life not just like that, we at times have work to do that is necessary, but not particularly enjoyable? Entertainment was also a part of life, but it did not consist of a large block of time, plus it was woven in with the other activities in an almost seamless manner, like the trips to the woods to watch squirrels for a half-hour before completing farm chores. We didn’t have to take a trip in an automobile to some place for that bit of entertainment.
Entertainment for Urban Families – While I spent about 20 years of my adult life in small towns and cities, it has been more than 30 years since I lived in that type environment. I do have opportunity to visit urban areas at times. Most of my focus here has been on entertainment for young people, although some of the same challenges for youth also apply to adults, mainly what do people do with their free time.
For farm people, the term “free time” is almost laughable. Many urban dwellers would not understand, since they have little or no concept of farm life. For example, as I write this, we are in the long days of summer. I go out on the farm twice after the evening meal, once to tend to some minor chores and put the sheep into a smaller field to protect them from coyotes (guard dogs help). The second time is near dark and that trip is to shut the doors to two chicken coops so they will be protected from predators. Free time in excess is typical and basically a very serious problem in urban areas. For the discussion to follow, I will separate urban youth into two broad categories again.
Entertainment for Poor Inner City Youth. At the risk of stereotyping, the following are characteristic of many in this environment: poor, small living space, unwed mothers, renters. The neighborhood has a lot of children with basically no work to do, and all their play must be made up. The play is not a natural part of the environment as it can be with farm-reared children. Many are what I call half-orphans, meaning they have one parent missing from the home, usually the father, and some likely do not even know who their father is. So here is the setup outlining just a few possibilities:
- Products of public schools
- Half-orphans in many cases
- No work to do
- Much idle time
- Likely entertained by various types of media
What do we expect with this type mix? No more questions.
Entertainment for Affluent Urban Youth. These young people live in a more spacious home and neighborhood, some in very upscale places. However, they have several similarities when compared to the inner city youth. Perhaps they listen to similar music, use mobile phones for much of their entertainment, and likely view some of the same unwholesome TV programming. They are more likely to travel by automobile to arrive at their place of after-school activity.
- Products of public schools
- Some half-orphans
- No work to do
- Some idle time
- Likely entertained by various types of media
- Enrolled in multiple activities (sports, arts) to entertain/keep busy
There are two primary points to make here. First: the inner city group is likely to get in trouble quicker than the affluent group. I’ll just leave it at that. Secondly: both groups have time from end of the school day, perhaps 3:30 p.m. until some unknown bedtime, where there is little natural flow of work, family time, and entertainment. Unlike the farm boy who may do chores before the seven o’clock breakfast, the city dwellers often stay up late at night and sleep as late as possible the next morning. The boy who lives and works on the farm has early bedtime as a matter fact of his lifestyle.
It is safe to say that practically all media entertainment aimed at youth is unwholesome. While the affluent families are more likely to have a father in the home, there is little likelihood that the fathers and sons spend a lot of time together as they “walk by the way. In fact, some suburban fathers have long drives and get home late from work.
The final, and yet very important thing to emphasize is that work is absent from the lives of practically all urban youth. The idea that young people 12 – 18 years of age do not need to work is foolish at the very least. It is almost beside the point that we say, “But, they don’t have opportunity to work.” True, they don’t for the most part, but perhaps the Body of Christ needs to do some work here.
Perhaps Christians should sit down and make a long list of all the advantages of urban living and make a list of all the disadvantages. One of the more ominous facts about all who live in urban areas is that adults and youth alike have become addicted to entertainment. As a consequence they have a problem looking at life through any other set of glasses. My own experience plus that of others my age, who have lived in both cities and rural areas, gives us some unique perspectives. This is particularly true since we also had close ties to days dating back to the Great Depression era. Our parents lived in those days, and we learned some valuable principles concerning work ethic, perseverance, conservation, frugality, family enterprise, and challenged living that was born out of their experience. Furthermore, my generation knew a time when mobile phones, computers, television and cultural debauchery on a mass scale did not exist. We know there can be a better cultural environment than that we see now. We saw a change in the culture that went from “Father Knows Best” to “Dad is a Dummy.” God knew what He was talking about with his commands that instructed men to see that both sons and grandsons were taught properly. When I look back on the post WWII days of growing up in a rural farm area, I do see one disadvantage we experienced. Since we were surrounded by adults at home, school, church and community who had lived through the challenges of the Great Depression days, there was a constant drumbeat from adults that we needed to get all the education we could get and then move to more urban areas in order to find work. In other words, we were not encouraged to stay in the rural area and work. Many of us left the area, while many of the back-to-earth, hippy generation moved to rural areas like my home area about 10-15 years after I graduated from high school. The “earthals,” as some call them, saw the advantage of living in rural areas, became productive citizens, and many demonstrated excellent entrepreneurial skills. Then of course, many people like myself moved back after working in the cities for a while.
This chapter, “The Entertainment Factor,” is perhaps the most important chapter in this book that explains how we have ignored Romans 12:2. Christians who believe the way to change our culture to a to a more positive one is through changing our government school system, are just plain foolish, in my opinion. I firmly believe we now have a culture that has overdosed on entertainment, BIG TIME. …DR, 10/12/17