Not Kids’ Stuff

"We want to get kids to question everything," says Linda Ellerbee. Ellerbee is the producer of a new television program called "Nick News" and it does just that: It teaches kids to question everything-except, of course, the liberal platitudes Ellerbee herself endorses. "Nick News" is a brain-child of the cable network Nickelodeon. It's in high demand with local stations scrambling to comply with new standards set by the Children's Television Act. And no doubt some of the program segments really are more educational than endless reruns of "Roadrunner" cartoons. But along with the topical features, your child will be exposed to politically charged subjects like AIDS, racism, sexual harassment, the Vietnam War, and-most of all-environmentalism. On Earth Day "Nick News" ran extensive coverage of an environmental conference of the Kids World Council, another Nickelodeon project. A news report on the Council said, "One of its missions is to influence and educate adults to make necessary policy decisions." Educate and influence adults? Get serious. These are 4th, 5th, and 6th-grade children. Do the folks at Nickelodeon really think that these kids are going to solve complex problems like industrial pollution...and then advise experts who have been working on the subject for years? Apparently so. Because after cogitating on environmental problems for three whole days, the Kids World Council delivered their recommendations to Vice President Al Gore's office in Washington, D.C. Some of the youngsters have even spoken at Congressional hearings. Obviously, this program isn't only teaching kids to question everything. It's also teaching them that they already know everything-and that they're capable of instructing their own parents and political leaders. But this is one attitude teens don't need to be taught: They're already convinced they know ever so much more than the adults in their lives. In fact, I rather suspect Ellerbee harbors a touch of the same attitude herself. One newspaper calls her a "rebel turned producer." Ellerbee seems to imagine herself as a young rebel out to set the whole world straight. She proudly told reporters that her own son describes "Nick News" as "the most politically correct show on TV." Yes, children's television is the latest arena for people who haven't outgrown the sixties rebellion yet, and are seeking converts to their political radicalism. A warning signal ought to go off in our heads every time we hear someone talk about teaching kids to "question everything." Kids do plenty of that on their own. Besides, the very people who encourage skepticism toward traditional beliefs show far too little skepticism toward their own politically correct agendas. They may say they are teaching kids to question everything, but the truth is that teaching kids to question one set of authorities-their parents and churches-only leaves them open to another set-the young radicals who produce programs like "Nick News." So when you monitor your children's TV viewing, don't be taken in just because a program comes labeled as "educational." These days it seems the only choice television offers is between cartoon shows that are mindless. . . and news shows that change kids' minds.


Chuck Colson


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