Wednesday, October 13, 2010

TMZ on PBS: It’s Our Only Hope

Who was the first person to set foot on the moon? If you said Neil Armstrong, you are correct. If you said Buzz Lightyear, you’re so, so wrong. But don’t feel bad. At least you are not alone. One in five children think it was Buzz too.

We live in what is commonly referred to as the Information Age. Perhaps, though, we should call it the Misinformation Age. Shared knowledge about our world is a key thread in the fabric of society. And I hate to tell you this, but the cloth is unraveling and about to fall down around our ankles.

Just consider some of the historical and scientific “facts” that kids these days have come to believe:
  • 11% believe Isaac Newton discovered fire. And why not? Striking a match is an action that produces an equal, if not exactly opposite, reaction.
  • 11% believe that Albert Einstein was Frankenstein’s brother. Albert Einstein. Frank Einstein. Makes sense to me.
  • 17% believe that the Death Star is the furthest planet from Earth. Well, it’s not a planet, or a small moon for that matter. It’s a space station. But it could be the furthest space station from Earth, if only the Rebels would stop blowing it up.
  • 5% believe that Christopher Columbus invented liposuction. As an Italian myself, I know this isn’t true. But I wish it was. I’ve inherited the Italian fat thighs, you see, and I could use a relative in the cosmetic surgery business to give me a free treatment.
Sadly, another 17% of our kids mistook President Obama for Mr. T, even though the President doesn’t wear chains, sport a Mohawk, or go around saying, “Whachoo talkin’ ‘bout, fool?” (Strangely, no one mistook Vice President Biden for Murdock, even though they are both crazy as loons. But I digress.)

I can’t imagine where the stars of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader have been imported from, but they are obviously not from around here, because they know stuff. This general lack of knowledge that so many of our kids suffer from… Well, it is definitely disturbing. But even more disturbing are the facts that our kids actually get right. For example:
  • 65% know that Britney Spears shaved her head. I find this disturbing because it means far too many kids are reading People magazine, which is a crappy rag. Can’t we at least hook them on something cooler, like Rolling Stone or Blender?
  • 55% know that model Jordan has been married twice. Okay, I know I’m not a kid anymore, but I don’t even know who Jordan is. One of Michael Jordan’s spawn, maybe?
How is it that so many American children don’t know basic history and science, yet they do know how many times Lindsay Lohan has been before a judge? I suspect the only solution to this disturbing trend is a drastic one…one that I find utterly distasteful. And yet it is the only thing that might work.

TMZ is going to have to move to PBS.

I know you’re thinking this will never work. But it has to. Obviously, our kids are already hooked on that bottom-feeder of a show. How else can we explain why they know so much about Kanye West’s tweets? So, we’ve got to act fast by pairing the TMZ cast with lovable Sesame Street puppets to teach our kids some edumacation before they start to think Snooki wrote Hamlet.

We don’t even have to worry about the intelligence of the TMZ staff, or any of the celebrities they talk about. I mean, do you think they know any more than our kids do? No, I don’t either. But if we can get them to read cue cards, we’ll be okay. We can write down the facts we want to teach our children—such as, “Abe Lincoln was a president, not a car salesman.” The TMZ cast can sit with Grover and Oscar and Elmo, and simply read the cue cards in between making dumb jokes about Beyonce’s latest comments to photographers at LAX.

Just consider the benefits… Pairing TMZ with PBS will make PBS seem much hipper than Lawrence Welk reruns will ever accomplish. TMZ could benefit from the respectability that a little time with Big Bird can bestow. And our children will finally be able to learn that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, not Steve Jobs.

These are desperate times, and we don’t have a minute to lose. We can’t allow the future wage earners of America to be utterly unable to count to ten, or we’ll never get correct change at McDonald’s ever again. So we’ve got to make our stand now. I can only hope we’ll rescue our kids in time…

Copyright (c) 2010 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

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