TV Tuesdays: The Educational Checklist

Today’s TV Tuesday comes to us from Fizzy, a doctor mom who draws hilarious medical training cartoons over at A Cartoon Guide to Becoming a Doctor.

Don’t get me wrong, I like when kid TV shows are educational in some way. Certainly it’s better when shows have some sort of teaching value beyond a sponge getting himself into mischief. But it’s a little irritating when the teaching seems really tacked on. It’s like there’s some sort of educational checklist and each show must check off a certain number of boxes to be considered educational. If that’s true, I can hypothesize about what some of these checkboxes might be:

–Teaching another language. This is fine on a show like Dora the Explorer or even Handy Manny, but does every single show need to have Spanish in it? It’s kind of baffling when the kid on Martha Speaks (the show about the talking dog) suddenly has a mom that’s Hispanic and now the talking dog is learning Spanish too. I mean, it’s already impressive the dog talks. Does she need to be bilingual?

–Learning about a disability. On the (now canceled?) show Dragon Tales, all of a sudden there was a recurring dragon character that used a wheelchair. All the other dragons can both walk AND fly… so this dragon kid really got screwed. It felt very tacked on, especially since he appeared soon after a random Spanish-speaking character was introduced.

–Team work. If Wonderpets is any indication, this a big teaching point. Honestly, Wonderpets, I do think there are a few problems in life that CAN be solved without team work.

–Asking questions of the kids watching the show. I get it when the question is something educational, like a math-related question or something, but my daughter’s new favorite show is Jake and the Neverland Pirates and they always ask the same damn questions! “What’s the secret pirate password?” (Yo ho ho — not very secure, by the way) and “What can we use to help us fly?” (Pixie dust. Duh.) How is this in any way educational? I don’t know what that show teaches, beyond not to steal other people’s junk.

There are many shows that are good at weaving educational points seamlessly into the plot of the show. Like when Word Girl teaches a new word, it’s usually relevant and cute. But if Word Girl starts speaking Spanish, I’m going to be pissed off.


1 Comment

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One Response to TV Tuesdays: The Educational Checklist

  1. Sarah G

    I preferred getting my education between cartoons with Schoolhouse Rock. It’s really hard to insert educational content into something entertaining without screwing it up. Adding entertainment to education seems to work better. I’ve often thought Southpark was the most successful cartoon at educating the public through satire, but we aren’t supposed to let little kids watch that. :)

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