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 ;-))


Morgan Freeman (yes, THAT Morgan Freeman) as Easy Reader from PBS’s The Electric Company in the early 1970s.

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!



About Alan Tucker

Writer, Dad, Graphic Designer, Soccer Coach … not necessarily in that order!

Posted on January 7, 2013, in Books/Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. OMG, you’ve just taken me for a time machine ride! Conjunction junction what’s your function? LOL! You’re right about kid’s having focusing issues these days, even as a writer, there’s too much going on (facebook, twitter, and so on) that it’s hard to sit down and write. That’s when we need to learn to unplug from time wasters and set priorities. Great post, Alan!

  2. I loved The Electric Company, and don’t forget Schoolhouse Rock. I even incorporated those videos when I taught, and enjoyed every nostalgic moment. 🙂

    • I love the fact that things like this are preserved on places like YouTube. Just because things are a little older doesn’t mean they don’t have value anymore. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself! Thanks for your comment, Elise!

  3. I learnt to read when I was 5 while watching Sesame Street. I had this copy of The Wizard of Oz, and when they started teaching the letters, I would look for them in my book. Soon afterwards I could read the whole book. And I haven’t stopped reading since! Great post 😀

  4. Conjunction junction whats – your – FUNCTION??? LOL!!! THAT was a time warp, and there is no way it is that old. I am not that old, am I? HAHA. Well I love that. And the Electric company… and Sesame Street. They just don’t make cool stuff like that any more. No funding I guess. Sad.

    • Time flies, right? Hard for me to grasp my youngest is a Junior in High School. Well, we’re only as old as we act — which is why I spend my days making up stuff and telling stories 😉 Thanks for the comment, Lisa!

  5. I don’t remember some of those shows but I do remember Sesame Street. I grew up with Bozo the Clown, Fraggle Rock, and Muppet Babies. I homeschool my two daughters who are 7 and 8 and just yesterday my youngest said to me “I wish there was a way that I could just put something on my head and it would tell my brain all the things I need to learn”. I replied that we aren’t computers but it did make me wonder if someday something like that will be invented.

    • Hi, Kate! Thanks for popping in 🙂 I agree with your daughter, sometimes it would be wonderful to just inject things into our brains, Johnny Pneumonic style. Like spelling. I would love to never have to look up a word again! But, often the journey of learning is the real treat. I can’t count the things I’ve discovered while on the path to researching something entirely different! That sense of exploration is something I treasure.

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