04 July 2002 – by L.C.
I occasionally check in on the ominously named “children's programming” on television.  It has certainly become “programming children” over the years.  The normal fare today is characters in annoyingly mismatched clothing, with high-pitched voices and in some cases even lisp!  These characters certainly donut help impressionable toddlers to improve their language skills by any measure.  Just when kids are honing in their pronunciation of multi-syllable words, the garbage coming from this so-called edutainment sabotages them.

I have a feeling that children's programming does far more than retard language development.  Another common element of edutainment is the complete surrealism of it all.  I might be going out on a limb here, but cant we give children a solid grounding in reality without destroying their innocence?  I think that kids have a powerful enough imagination without being goaded on by a purple dinosaur to imagine “backwards pancake land...”  If you were to hire a tutor for your 3 year old and the tutor arrived dressed like a pokemon, wouldn't this feel extremely unsettling?  How about if the tutor's first lesson was for your child to roll on the floor in imitation of a fish?  Asinine yes, but a multitude of parents allow their children to be inundated with this Dadaism from sunrise, albeit by cathode rays.

The mind of a 3 year old is one of the most powerful and precious things on earth.  This young mind wants to learn and will learn whatever it's exposed to. These minds are fully capable of the first steps in literacy and numeracy.   So why are parents allowing these minds to be soaked in hours of passive entertainment that teaches nothing useful?  Even playing in the backyard, crushing ants and being stung by bees is infinitely more educational than watching a snuffelapuffagus decide whether a pizza is round or square.   Television at its best is a poor substitute for real life experience and adult (parental) guidance.

The few things that your child will learn from watching children's programming are either common sense (that can be learned by touching a warm light bulb for instance) or the subversive propaganda that even adult television viewers aren't spared from.  An example of this comes from a few minutes I glimpsed today.  A motley group of children are dancing around a brightly colored room and a man steps in saying “Hey kids, I'd like to tell you about diversity!”  A bewildered looking white girl asks “What's diversity.”  The man (trustable adult who can only tell the truth) tells the kids that “Diversity is all the special things that make each one of us different, like the color of our hair.”  Flash to Negro child “or how short or tall we are, or what different talents we have.”  “Wouldn't it be boring if everyone were the same” says the man.  The motley group of kids continues dancing as the man tells them to remember to “celebrate diversity.”  There was no mention that diversity has anything to do with skin color or anal sex.  No, that lesson is for later when the child already accepts that diversity is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

This sort of social programming isn't uncommon in children's television.  The cast of your average kids show is at least 5 characters since they need at least 1 black, 1 spic, 1 asian, 1 undeterminable, and of course 1 white.  If the budget allows, they will also have purse carrying elephants and a 6 foot tall chipmunk.  They may occasionally slide into educational mode where they tell your kid how important the sun is for life, but then they'll go into a 3 minute song about how wonderful the sun is. During the song your children will be treated to an animated sun with a smiley face and so they are plunged into surrealism once again, though to be honest they never really left.

To put a developing mind in front of a television today is a folly of incredible proportions.  A toddler does not need entertainment.  A toddler needs, wants, and craves wholesome play and a foundation for lifelong learning.  What a tragedy it is that so many people could be great parents, but they haven't the slightest clue as to the destructiveness of that insidious box.  Those teletubbies may look cute, but they'll screw up a kid worse than a Catholic priest in heat.