Sunday, January 29, 2006

Bugs Are Bugging Me

by Tom Bozzo

Those of you out there with the occasion to watch children's television lately will surely have noticed the "e|i" 'bug' in the corner of the screen during some of the favorite shows of your Adorable Offspring.

Let me offer this proposition: The "e|i" label is to the broadcaster's public interest obligations what shrink wrap licenses are to fair contracts. Not only is the "e|i" bug superimposed on educational programming stalwarts such as "Sesame Street" that clearly provide some instructional content, but also on the likes of "Blue's Clues" and "Dragon Tales" which are to instructional programming what batter-covered frozen freedom fries are to fresh vegetables.

Here's the "educational philosophy" of Dragon Tales:
  • To encourage young children to pursue the challenging experiences that support their growth and development.
  • To help young children recognize there are many ways to approach and learn from the challenging experiences in their lives.
  • To help young children understand that to try and not succeed fully is a natural and valuable part of learning.
And, I suppose, to teach kids that disabled dragons are just as good as the ordinary flying-and-fire-breathing kind.

Likewise, from the back of a "Blue's Clues" DVD, describing the a 2004 episode:
"Love Day" Promotes:
  • Empathy and Emotion
  • Story Comprehension & Recall
  • Asking Questions
Let's get past the Simpsons reference in the "Love Day" title — the other Love Day is a holiday concocted by marketers to encourage consumerism in a dead spot on the calendar:
Manager: Okay, people. We need to cook up a new holiday for the summer.
Something with, eh, gifts, cards, assorted gougeables.
Woman: How about something religious? We had great penetration last
spring with "Christmas II"!
Man: Ooh, I know, Spendover, like Passover but less talk, more presents!
...leading to a managerial edict to develop something like "Love Day" but not so lame; cut to the Simpsons surrounded with Love Day crap. (Yes, the mystery is to discover the identity of an anonymous sender of a "Love Day" card received by Joe). It comes across as a wink to certain parents, but what kind of wink? 'This is crap, and we all know it?'

Meanwhile, the lessons promoted by "Love Day" are so generic that an episode of "Three's Company" could be construed as promoting them. Asking questions?!? "Why does Mr. Roper keep looking at Jack that way, Daddy?"
Dragon Tales encourages my children to avoid challenging experiences by turning to TV whenever the going gets rough. Which is a valuable life lesson, you know? Thank you, PBS Kids!
Is the "educational philosophy" of these shows the pre-school version of all the leadership crap floating around high schools and colleges these days?

And another thing. Based upon these criteria, wouldn't basically any show with verbal language in it qualify as "educational"? So then, what about Boobah?

Anyway, just to let you know, I've tagged you for a meme over at my place. Feel free to ignore it if you wish.
Corndog: You're onto something, though I think that pseudo-edjamacational philospophy is the window dressing on an effort to keep FCC licensing bureaucrats from waking up and lowering the boom on some commercial broadcast station for having too much of the Chocobots and too little public affairs programming.

I'm curious as to why PBS (which doesn't need the plausible deniability so much, outside of fund-raising times when they're swamped with stultifying concert videos and inspirational speakers) runs the bug as well as commercial stations. That's led me to believe that in addition, it's part of some dumbass politician's effort to inform parents as to whether their children are watching Quality Programming.

Also, memes are not at all beneath me. From my position in the blogiverse, it would be far worse not to be tagged at all... plus, I can blog more about Legos.

PS: Actually, "Three's Company" did the same thing for my brother and me at one point. (We were a little older than LG, but not to the point of fully understanding the show's premise.)
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