We haven't had television for a while. At least, not until last September. Since then our kids have learned a whole new vocabulary and have begun taking lessons in consumption. Last Christmas, Cason wanted a Frisbee and a blue ball with flowers. This year, fueled by commercials, she wanted a Disney Ariel Salon (which she got from Santa...he's a real sucker) and an Ariel Kitchen (which she didn't get, because she has a perfectly good play kitchen already).
Obviously television is a powerful teacher. Recently I noticed another trend in preschool-oriented television. Scrolling through the DVR at shows we allow our children to watch, I realized that all but one of them are "mission-oriented." The characters in the show discover a problem, then set out on some kind of adventure to solve the problem. Here are some of the shows:
Dora the Explorer
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
Now there are a lot of redeeming qualities about these shows: lessons in problem-solving, shapes & colors, music, etc. But ALL of them are based on the fact that our lives are all about accomplishing a goal or achieving a mission. We might as well integrate basic mission-statement writing into the preschool curriculum.
Maybe this is too subtle and I'm being overly-sensitive. But I'm pursuing a career in the arts, and the reason the arts are dying is because they don't appear in anyone's mission-statement or purpose statement. We in American culture are all about achieving, doing, and accomplishing. More, faster, bigger, better. Why can't our preschoolers just sit down and play?
So, this brings me to my new favorite show. "Charlie and Lola" is one of the greatest shows I watch with my kids. It's about two British children (hmmm...not American. Coincidence?): Charlie, and his younger sister, Lola, and in the show they don't accomplish anything. They have picnics. They play swirly-tennis. They play in the snow. They go to the dentist. But my kids love it, and so do I.
As an amateur student of American culture, I find all of this very interesting. We obviously have strongly ingrained ideas of the "American Dream" and achievement and working hard to make yourself better and accomplishing all those missions and goals in life, but I didn't expect it to be so overt in preschool television programming. I think Charlie and Lola is a nice reminder that we should learn (perhaps from other countries & cultures) to sit back, relax, play, and drink more pink milk!