Current Reading

This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

I'm currently reading Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Word cloud

Word cloud

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Anti-Intellectualism in American Childhood

Yesterday I was hanging out with some friends and their 5 year-old.  The kid wanted to watch a cartoon, so we put on Magic School Bus, a show from the mid-90's about a group of kids and their teacher who go on adventures in a magic school bus, learning about science along the way.  The show is excellent in many respects:  The content is factually accurate (obviously no real school bus could turn into a submarine that can survive in lava, but the stuff they learn about volcanoes is accurate), the group of kids is diverse by multiple measures, the science teacher is a female role model, and it seems like a fun way to learn about science.

So what is bugging me about this show?  They repeatedly made fun of the class bookworm, Dorothy Ann.  Yes, I can appreciate a message of "Go out there and explore and experiment", and I concur that in real science the answers aren't typically found in books, but it seems like this point could have been delivered without repeatedly making fun of the kid who really likes to read.  I almost felt like I was having lunch with my colleagues!

What I find fascinating about this is not that somebody somewhere out there felt like making fun of the kid who reads (that's life in America) but that this message made its way past a group of people who obviously put a lot of work into vetting the show for positive messages.  They were (rightly!) fastidious about making sure that kids had a diverse cast of role models to encourage them to explore STEM, but in all of this vetting for positive messages nobody thought "Hey, maybe we should go easy with mocking the bookworm."  This tells you much about American culture.  Hofstadter was right.

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