Learning recycling along with ABCs?

I started to leave a comment on this one, and then realized that I actually had more to say than would fit in a single comment. (What, me wordy? Shocking, I know.) So rather than clutter up Ashley’s comments with my long-windedness, I figured I’d bring it over here. And clutter up the blog instead. No need to thank me!

Okay. The post in question is this one over at Children’s Media Consultant, in which Ashley (whom some of you may recognize as an occasional commenter here, which is how I found her) asks a very interesting question: With all of the teaching that kids’ television does, why isn’t it addressing environmental issues more often?

She says:

Although the inhabitants of our world are diverse, the one thing we all have in common is the planet on which we live. We share the same sky, the same oceans, the same soil. And all of it is in danger. In order to tackle issues that have and will continue to affect each and every one of us — like global warming, animal extinction, pollution, conservation, etc. — we must embrace an “eco” frame of mind. If the next generation learns to make a minor, habitual change — by practicing recycling, for instance, even on the most local level — there is the potential to make a huge impact on the global environment.

To which I (uncharacteristic brevity though it may be) can only say “amen.” Yes. But after discussing the relative paucity of shows which teach environmental responsibility (Captain Planet and It’s a Big Big World being the most notable offerings), Ashley asks:

Why do you think there is so little on this topic on kid’s TV? Is TV (as an indoor, inactive medium) the right place to teach ecology?

Alright, here’s what I think: I think that when shows teach kids how to read, or how to do math, everyone says, “Yay, learning!” I think that when a show tries to teach kids that the safety of the planet is in jeopardy, people say, “Boo, alarmists!” Even educational shows have to be non-controversial, and as there are still folks out there insisting that ecological concerns are a political matter (because it’s not about preserving the planet we live on, oh no, it’s all about what party you vote for!), I think it becomes a dicey matter to teach mindful ecology.

I also think that’s really, really sad, but it’s what I suspect to be the reason behind the lack of such shows. And think about it—what’s been the public reaction to entertainment that does carry such messages? The backlash against Happy Feet for being a “movie with an agenda” was not inconsiderable. With Arctic Tale coming out soon, I expect similar protestations.

As for whether TV is the right medium for these lessons… well, I think it could be one of them, sure. If someone can find a great way to teach kids how to take care of our planet without the lobbyists all getting bent out of shape about it. Now that would really be something.

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4 thoughts on “Learning recycling along with ABCs?

  1. Thanks for your comments about my recent post on Children’s Media Consultant, “Why Isn’t Kid’s TV More Eco-Friendly?”. I think we’re moving in a direction where we’ll see more of this topic being covered on children’s television … That said, most of the research says (and I’ve done a lot of it in graduate school) that it’s key to NOT focus on the issues. Scaring kids into submission will just create eco-phobia, not an environmentally minded citizenry.

    There’s so much more to all of this … I think we’ve only tapped the surface. More to come!


  2. Pingback: Eco Child’s Play » Blog Archive » Green Series: Children’s TV Going Green (part 2)