Discover… The Power of Stuff!

My daughter (and I, when I’m too lazy to work on writing like I should), watches a lot of Discovery Kids Channel. It has a lot of non-U.S. programming that’s a few years old, but much of it is educational or at least semi-educational while still being entertaining.

Well, I discovered a couple of days ago that Hasbro acquired controlling ownership in the channel, and they’re giving the channel a complete makeover including a new name (The Hub) and programming line-up. I took a look at the new line-up, and saw something interesting, but not surprising considering who bought them: the educational programming is being replaced with high quality shows like “Transformers”, “G.I. Joe”, “Pound Puppies”, “Family Game Night”, “Clue”, and the like. Your basic 30-minute product commercials.

I took a look at the shows that my daughter watches on the channel, where they’re made, and their focus, and found this:

  • Adventure Camp (U.S. and U.K.): Animal adventure and education.
  • Crash, Bang, Splat! (Australian): Science and creativity.
  • The Future is Wild (U.S.): Cartoon featuring teens who have wacky and ridiculous adventures in the far far future Earth, way past human civilization and acknowledges evolution.
  • Mystery Hunters (Canada): Part “ghost hunter” type fluff but always ending with skeptical conclusions, and part outright skeptical science-based segments.
  • Timeblazers (Canadian): A quasi-“Connections” show focusing on historical events and figures, often debunking myths and misconceptions about legends and the origins of things.
  • Time Warp Trio (U.S.): Cartoon featuring time-travelling kids meeting historical characters. A lot of fluff and some misconceptions, but occasionally features good info/representations.
  • Truth or Scare (U.S.): Completely worthless and credulous “investigative” show on the paranormal and supernatural, with terrible lessons on pseudo-skepticism which always leads to accepting any claim at face value.
  • Tutenstein (U.S.): Ridiculous cartoon featuring an ancient Egyptian boy-king mummy getting into wacky adventures.

Eight shows she watches. All the ones that aren’t U.S. made do a good job encouraging skepticism, science, creativity. Each of the solely U.S. ones fall short but at least make a nod toward science, with the one and only intellectually disgusting show being a U.S. program. It’s bad enough that the U.S. programs lag behind the international ones in encouraging education and critical thinking, but now an American corporation that now owns the channel is going to get rid of all of them in exchange for completely mindless product-shilling drivel.

Actually, the upcoming Hub programming is keeping some of the Discovery Kids shows, but all that they’re keeping are the cartoons and live action dramas that don’t feature any science, educational, or intellectual content.

I believe without doubt that capitalism prefers unquestioning stupidity. Oh, I’m not saying that if you’re a conspicuous consumer you’re stupid! I mean, everyone living in the industrialized west are consumers, no matter what education or intelligence level you are. But the less educated, less thinking you are, the more you can be manipulated by crass marketing and be convinced you have needs that only buying more stuff will fill. The less you’ll get involved in politics and try to change the corporatocracy and oligarchy our current system of government is. The more you’ll keep your head down, work 40-60 hours a week to earn other people their profits. The more you’ll buy things to try to placate your growing ennui and discomfort at life.

There’s a new documentary out now, Waiting for “Superman”, which looks at the very serious problem the U.S. is facing with our education system. It sucks. We rank near the bottom of every list of industrialized countries in science, math, and yet we’re convinced by jingoist patriotic propaganda to always respond with “U! S! A! We’re number 1!” and completely ignore the iceberg that’s already ripped a gash along our hull.

We have a serious culture issue, and it’s illustrated by this change in programming from Discovery Kids to The Hub. We in America are ruled by consumerism, by capitalism, and are encouraged to have a mistrust for anything that appears “smart” or intellectual as being “elitist” or “un-American.” You know what? If being educated, competent, knowledgeable, and critical are un-American traits? You can have my citizenship because this country is swiftly sinking into a technologized third-world.

Fictional character Sam Seaborn, on The West Wing, made one of the best speeches ever spoken on that show:

“Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don’t need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense.”

And Roger Ebert, in his review of Waiting for “Superman”, says this:

“Our nation is willing to spent trillions on war and billions to support the world’s largest prison population rate. Here is my modest proposal: Spend less money on prisons and more money on education. Reduce our military burden and put that money into education. In 20 years, you would have more useful citizens, less crime and no less national security. It’s so simple.”

I couldn’t possibly agree with the character nor the man more than I do.