Spoiled For Choice — Would You Like Some Broccoli With That Ice Cream?
I saw this morning that NPR had interviewed the creative force behind the Schoolhouse Rock series of shorts that graced my Saturday mornings when I was a kid. The series, to my shock and dismay, just had its fortieth birthday! Time, you’re such a cruel, cruel mistress. For you young pups out there unfamiliar with these educational cartoons, they addressed particular aspects of grammar or math, and even how our government works. They had silly, catchy tunes that helped kids learn and remember the subject of the piece. (For all my writer friends, I’ve inserted the adverb song at the end of this post )
This got me to thinking about all the great educational shows I used to watch, simply for their entertainment value. Sesame Street, when I was little, then later, The Electric Company. You see, back then kids, shortly after the dinosaurs all died out, we only had three channels of television to choose from: ABC, CBS, and NBC. Those that were lucky enough to live close to a translator broadcasting PBS (Public Broadcasting System) had a fourth choice. PBS, I’m happy to say, is still going strong today, and has branched out to the Internet with its educational messages for kids.
Having choices is a good thing. Sometimes, having too many choices can be confusing. Kids today are spoiled for choice and PBS has been drowned out by a plethora of shows and entire networks aimed at young audiences. Some of them also provide solid educational programming. My little ones enjoyed shows like Blue’s Clues a few years ago. But, when left to their own devices and given a choice between ice cream, chocolate, suckers, cookies, or vegetables, I think we understand that vegetables are going to lose out in the vast majority of cases.
Recently, I’ve begun tutoring some youngsters who are behind their classmates in reading at my local Boys & Girls Club. These kids all share a common problem: difficulty focusing. I think this stems in large part from overstimulation. Too many choices.
We most certainly live in a different age — technology doesn’t stand still and we find ourselves continually adapting to new gadgets and ways of doing things. My generation was the first to grow up with color television. My kids were the first to grow up with cable and the Internet. Who knows what their kids will grow up with? Yet, as parents, we still must find a way to guide our children through the maze of choices they have in front of them. When your little ones sit down to watch TV, or surf the web, take the opportunity to suggest something fun, yet with a message. They might just discover, like I did, that learning can be just as entertaining as empty slapstick or potty humor.
Below: Rita Moreno and Bill Cosby from The Electric Company, and Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here!