Monday, July 30, 2007

Teach your children ... socialism?

PBS Kids television programming is a constant background of our mornings these days. For now, Dan isn't old enough to absorb the underlying messages. He just enjoys the big colorful characters and the high pitched voices. But, me, I'm plenty old enough and, I'd like to think, wise enough to pick out these messages. And the messages are beginning to disturb me.

Between the shows, a woman called Miss Lorie and a little animated rodent named Hooper hold court. The theme this morning was sharing. Little Hooper made a dinosaur for show and tell, but he didn't want to share it with the other kids. He said it's mine and I don't want anything bad to happen to it. Fair enough. But Miss Lorie, whose name should be Miss Busybody Smartypants, told him that sharing can be fun. Then she showed him that other kids were building a rocket and that if they all shared the parts and built the rocket together, it would be more fun than working alone.

Clifford the Big Red dog seems innocuous enough. But I've noticed lately that Jenna, a little black-haired girl, ends up being the antagonist. And her antagonist trait always involves her wanting to accomplish something on her own, without any of the other kids' help. She wants to be better. She wants to win. Her methods are always nefarious and she's always foiled in the end while Emily Elizabeth and her friends come out on top because they worked together. At first, Jim and I didn't like little Jenna too much. Jim actually was watching one day with Dan and started calling Jenna names. But then I realized: that's what they want. They want kids to dislike the kid who wants to accomplish things on his own, the one who wants to be better, the one who wants to win. The message is that you can only really win if you work together.

Poor little Hooper made the dinosaur. It was his and he didn't want anyone to destroy it, which is usually what happens when kids are involved. You generally take better care of your own belongings, so its reasonable to be particular about who plays with your stuff. Jenna, on Clifford the Big Red Dog, wants to use her talents to succeed on her own. Nothing wrong with that. Now, I don't advocate many of her antics. What's worse is that the antics usually involved cheating or scheming. So they're teaching kids that the only way to win is by scheming and cheating alone or by working together. It's just wrong to portray her as a villain for wanting to work alone and be the best, which incidentally involves being better than someone else. I'm just waiting for the day when the public schools strike superlatives from the grammar curriculum.

Where am I going with this? The concepts of ownership and individualism obviously aren't encouraged in PBS Kids land. And that's a problem for us. These are two concepts that Jim and I believe in. We want our children to feel free to use their talents and willingness to work hard to acquire any kind of wealth - material or spiritual - without the risk of their accomplishments being demeaned, demonized or even taken from them. Think I'm being paranoid? Take a look at our tax code. Money and success equals taxation and extreme reproach.

So by the time Dan is old enough to understand this constant stream of socialism, we'll have to turn off our PBS. Maybe we can write children's shows and stories with a strong libertarian undertone. After all, that's what America used to be about.


Hi, My name is: Tim said...

The Little Engine That Could,
The Red Hen,
Little House on the Prairie,
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel,
The Legend of John Henry,

They're out there... you just have to sift through an ocean of Rainbow Fish to find them.

Anonymous said...

Preach it, sister! Can I get a whup, whup, hubba, hubba.

BTW, we have those bookshelves for you if you still want them.

-- Todd Lewis

Anonymous said...

what you really need to find (or write) is an edition of "objectivism for kids"...