Sunday, March 05, 2006

No Explanation Required. Really.

Alex's favorite channel, Noggin, has started running announcements before each show. In said announcements, a friendly female narrator explains the learning objectives for each program.

For example, if you sat down with your child plopped your child down in front of "Connie the Cow," you would hear Pleasant Voice say, "'Connie the Cow' enhances preschoolers' understanding of science, including observational and classification skills, and recognizing diversity in nature."

Before "Jack's Big Music Show," there's this big speech about "metacognition skills," and after the first time we heard it David said, "What's metacognition?" And I said, "I dunno. Something about thinking or something." Because we're bright like that.

My point is this. We don't hold children's programming accountable for Alex's learning. We're careful about what he watches because we know he'll absorb what he hears, but we're certainly not planning to quiz him on the theme of a given day's "Miss Spider Patch." We happen to like Noggin because the shows don't make us want to stick a fire poker in one ear and out the other, and the fact there are no commercials is an added benefit. And of course we restrict his TV to about three channels (Noggin, Sprout, Playhouse Disney) because we don't want our almost-three year old saying things like, "Mama, I wanna hear 'My Humps,'" or "Mama, wanna see 'Cribs'."

But to think that we let Alex watch TV so that he can master learning objectives?

Hogwash. That's giving us far too much credit.

I think mothers (and daddies) across America would actually be just as responsive to Noggin's programming tactics if we heard Pleasant Voice say the following:

"This episode of 'Blue's Clues' provides you, the parent, with twenty two precious minutes in which you may make a phone call, write a blog entry, take a shower, blow dry your hair, talk to your spouse, catch up on email, load your dishwasher, or zone out on the couch. Your child may not take away anything of legitimate educational value, but we think you'll be okay with that given the twenty two precious minutes you're about to enjoy."

Many thanks, Noggin. Many thanks indeed.


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