About Me

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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Illusions for Children

As a kid, I remember getting mail from the Burger King Kids Club when I was very young, impressionable girl. I was living in the middle of nowhere, without electricity (or TV), and I had very few friends. The mail convinced me I had been chosen for a special club. Every time we went to the mailbox I anticipated the kids' club newsletter. The characters in the brochure were real to me. It was a gang of kids who were all different and accepted. When the print said these were my friends, I believed them.  Being a lonely child living in a log cabin in the woods, I felt different but not accepted. I dreamt of meeting the kids one day!
You can just imagine my disappointment when I finally went to a real live Burger King. No one knew me, and they didn't want to get to know me, even after I told them I was a member of the club! As a vegetarian, I could not truly appreciate the food. Still, I got a kids meal because they promised me a prize. I hoped it would at least be a figurine of my favorite Burger King Kid, "Wheels." Inside the toy was so disappointing that I threw it away on my way out and to this day I can not remember what it was. These days, newsletter are sent by e-mail and advertisements are delivered to children through television.
The advertisements tug on emotions and desires that children don't yet know how to control. But that is what advertising is all about. Ads are designed to drive children insane until they throw tantrums to get what they want from the store. That is how toys are sold and it works.
Recently, while watching Nick Jr. I was appalled by the way the channel portrayed itself. The channel (not a commercial but the channel itself) claimed to have a "curriculum" and be "preschool at home"! Television is not school, even the most educational show will never be comparable to a real life experiences. Nevertheless, before every Nick Jr. show is a little synopsis of the lessons your child is going to learn from the show. Some of the skills your child will learn is how to "explore," "discover", and "share and care."
If parents believe that the television will teach their children how to "explore, discover, share and care," like Nick Jr. claims, they will have no reason to expose them to real children or real life experiences. If  the channel is as good as preschool, then why not let children watch television all day, everyday?
Most of these children won't be able to have the epiphany that I had walking into that Burger King Restaurant. Because there is no building that contains those cute, cuddly TV characters without their costumes on. Children have no way to see that the characters are just people, as messed up as anyone else. They are growing up mesmerized by the characters they see on the screen and unaware of the illusion they live inside.

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