CSI: Crippling Student’s Intelligence

April 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

I thought it went without saying; TV lies! It’s fictitious. That’s why it has earned nicknames like the “idiot box” and “boob tube.”  I now fear ever having to appear in court for entirely different reasons…

Have you heard of the “CSI Effect“? I read about it today on Noah Brier’s blog. Apparently, the influence of crime solving television on jurors has caused prosecutors in the United States to spend much more time explaining  why certain kinds of evidence are not relevant. Prosecutors have even gone so far as to introduce a new kind of witness- a “negative evidence” witness, to explain that investigators often fail to find evidence at a crime scene.

I want my tax dollars back! Anyway, this made me think of a class I took my freshmen year of college. It was a 1 credit, pass or fail, career paths course. It was designed to help students establish the correct major early on to avoid the expense, paperwork, and other results of multiple major changes. The course was built around a series of quizzes and exploratory activities to better understand every students individual skill sets. It was taught by 2 instructors who put great emphasis on not selecting a major based on popular public programming. Apparently, as employees of the career services department, they had been seeing a steep increase in the number of declared forensic science majors, which they had deduced was a result of the number of criminal forensics television shows airing at the time.

They had stated, in so many words, that forensics is not glamorous, nor as technologically advanced as TV makes it out to be. Very few science labs in the United States are even equipped for the experiments and tests shown on TV due to budgetary restrictions and changing technologies. Further more, what a scientist can prove in a lab doesn’t equate to what a our legal systems will allow as documented proof.

This argument ultimately didn’t affect my major choice, or what I took away from the course- quizzes which concluded I was best suited to be a cruise director. But to return to the CSI Effect and the advice of my instructors, I can only say I’m surprised more people don’t this obvious. Why would eager college freshmen cling to the allure of micropipettes and mineral compositions? Why would randomly selected citizens refer to their pop culture knowledge to fight justice? TV has become more influential then most high school guidance counselors, and the ability to retard the general population by glamorizing otherwise dull careers is one of the unfortunate side effects.


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