Monday, July 16, 2007

New show on CBS: Kid Nation

The promo/trailer:

The show is set to debut with the new Fall TV season. (It was originally intended to be shown during the Summer season?)

Kid Nation on CBS
Kid Nation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The show will feature 40 children, aged 8-15, living in Bonanza City, NM. The children will be required to create a functioning society in the town, as well as set up a government system used to solve problems in the town. The children will be attempting to prove that they can create a functioning society.
The wikipedia entry also includes a critique:

Despite being promoted as an experiment to see if kids can create a working society on their own, it is obvious from the original promo for the show[5] that the shows' producers have provided basic social structure and activities, making the whole experience something substantially different than The Lord of the Flies, and more typical of your typical reality show.[6]

The Founding of ‘Kid Nation’
How CBS Navigated Legal, PR and Logistical Shoals to Produce Key Show
By James Hibberd
KIDS IN CHARGE By MICHAEL STARR TV Shows TV Ratings ... - The kids aren't all right

Now, there are projects similar to this implemented in schools, thought experiements in government, a chance to implement civics lessons. (Would the Model UN also be another example? Model UN; Welcome to National Model United Nations; Model United Nations: Prepare - UN Cyberschoolbus; American Model United Nations International) Of course they don't go as far as to create an artificial society where the students have to live with each other and execute what they decide.

Does the show reinforce the narcissism of [American] youth, many of whom think they know everything already and can do just as well in life as adults? This poisonous trait is reinforced and spread by children's programming (especially "children's" movies) where adults are depicted as incompetent bufoons, while the children are the heros who solve all of the problems, even despite having a smart-aleck attitude (which is sometimes imitated by children in real life, and their parents let them get away with it, with weak vocal opposition). It's ok to be a smart-aleck, if you're really "smart", isn't it? What other justification would you need?

As the wikipedia article notes, their community is unreal in so far as their daily lives [at least that part of which is filmed] consists of playing games/activities, talking, and emoting for the camera. How much of producing their own necessities, especially food, is involved? My bet is 0. What gave adults the notion that children would have the moral, intellectual, and emotional capabilities to rule themselves with prudence and justice? Apparently adults who know nothing about virtue. Governing does involve rule-making and compromise, but isn't much more required for it to be done well.

Kid Nation may be a better program than Greeks, and more kid and pre-teen friendly, but doesn't it also "oppose the truth," though a different set of truths?

It's a paradox, that while we think we know and can make judgements about practical affairs [*this is not to deny that we find the same sort of learned ignorance with respect to theoretical matters as well], at the same time we rely on experts, pundits, and the MSM to tell us what to believe and think and how to decide. In order to be good citizens, we need to learn how to listen (we don't deny that the platitudes about communicating well with others and the necessity of listening are true), but we must also recognize where we are ignorant, and have not only the humility to ask others for guidance, but the ability to recognize whom we should listen to. Those who have some semblance of education must do our own investigation as well, and not assent to any proposition or recommendation unless the reasoning is solid.

If the Founding Fathers (and their contemporary followers) believed that religion/piety and American simplicity were sufficient to produce republican virtue, should we not say they were naive? With every day that passes, do we not see more evidence that Aristotle was correct about not initiating citizens into the governing of the community all at once, but in stages, putting them through an "internship" process? Do we not see the same feature in well-functioning "primitive" hunter-gatherer societies, where the young warriors may participate in deliberation, but they defer to the wisdom of their elders? Hence considerations about size are important, not only because of ecological concerns, but also because of the requirements for political participation to be done well and for the community to function as a locus of moral training.

Monastic life might seem to be an exception to this norm, but we need to remember that people are not initiated into monastic life as full members right away, but have to undergo an examination process, during which they can choose to leave or the community can reject them. So they must demonstrate some measure of moral and spiritual maturity, in addition to evidence of a vocation, before they can be members and contribute to the governance of the community (if at all--it depends on the monastic rule).

Also, do reality shows like Big Brother and Survivor twist our understanding of communal life and friendship? People often rationalize their behavior by saying "they're just playing the game." Do these shows endorse a "game theory" approach to morality and the good life? No doubt there are some people whom even the "best players" would not betray--family, those they truly consider to be their friends. But what about the rest of humanity? Just people to be exploited and manipulated?

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