Saturday, September 20, 2008

Educational Television

Mrs. Permanent Qui Vive, who doesn't yet have her own account here at AJ's Clubhouse, sends us this post. Thanks, Mrs. QV!

What with ballet, soccer, the first tests of the school year and the power outage, everyone in the family pretty much collapsed after school. Television time is a struggle for me as a parent. On the one hand, I want D#1 and D#2 to watch reasonably intelligent and tasteful television and, reluctantly, I have come to lump "Little Einsteins" in that category. On the other hand, I also want them to be familiar enough with pop culture to chat with friends and peers, thus occasionally I allow them to watch the Disney pre-teen sit-coms.

Yesterday an hour of bonus television meant "Hannah Montana," which I will never like, and "Zach and Cody's The Suite Life" which, despite my attempts to be pretentious and artful, I think very funny.

What struck me, amidst being very confused about some of the outfits, is that both shows had storylines in which a lead character's poor grades and/ or lack of I.Q. points played a crucial role. Hannah Montana laughed about failing two Biology quizzes and boasted of getting a D+ on a third. The only reason she became motivated to study for the big Biology test had nothing to do with her G.P.A and everything to do with her parents insisting that she couldn't go on tour with her band unless the grade went up.

Either Zach or Cody (not sure which) had failed English and had to take summer school. Everyone in the class wanted to pass, but prided themselves upon Ds; even the teacher assumed the worst of the class. When Cody/ Zach correctly guessed the meaning of a Shakespeare quote, he promptly became the subject of ridicule, bullying, etc.

Hannah Montana ended up acing her Biology test by setting the names of all the bones in the body to music, though she could only remember them if she sang and danced the song. Even with her A, though, the jokes about her stupidity continued. Now, I know that the stupidity is part of her secret identity, but... Zach/ Cody went through an internal struggle and was eventually inspired by Robert Frost (bet you can't guess which poem) to continue doing his best, despite the bullying.

The shows were vaguely amusing - well, the Hannah thread was dull, but I laughed at the bits where her brother took care of a parrot - but I wish we could glorify brains rather than think it's more appropriate to be mediocre.

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

I've laughed for years that the reason we got cable at our house is because Eleanor's first grade teacher required her to watch the olympics right as school started that fall. We have a very basic package that gives us something like six channels; I don't know. Aside from those first olympics, tv for my kids has mostly been a hotel room or DVD experience. We've watched almost all the seasons of The Simpsons, I've let them watch selected episodes of South Park ("Smug," where everyone drives hybrids, is their favorite), and we're going to watch Pushing Daisies and Eureka on DVD this fall. Maybe my kids are culturally deprived. But I can't see that it's hurt them, and what you say about the attitudes towards school on the shows you watched just confirms that.