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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Selling out early

Note from Buck: We will have several guest bloggers while Mero is on his honeymoon. Unlike me and Mero, Mandasaurus' observations are actually grounded in the real world and a job spent doing real things.

I teach at and help run a preschool. Last week we walked to the library. It's pretty close — zigzag up a few streets and we're smack dab at the D.C. Public Library. Spiffy. We heard a few stories, sang and danced, then we strolled back in the hot sun, taking a slightly different route.

About a block away I heard it. "Look! McDonald's!" Nearly every one of the 15 children with us cried out to the Golden Arches. "Can we go?" My response: "No way. That food isn't good for you."

We kept walking. The kids noticed construction workers, fountains, traffic signals, Metro stops and they even knew to ignore weirdoes who started talking to us. These 3- and 4-year-olds are so smart!

But it scares me that these children who are just learning to identify their own names ("That's L for Lilly!") can tell a McDonald's from a block away. Certainly kids know brand names — Power Rangers, Barney, Dora, even Jaguar cars.

The teacher side of me almost beams at how smart they are to identify a restaurant. It means the kids transfer what they saw at other McDonald's to this sight, recall what it is, identify the restaurant and its purpose, and demand what they want from it. "Let's get chicken nuggets!"

But the side of me who wants young adults to say no to bad over-processed food by making informed decisions is so mad! So mad I'm hustling a bunch of tiny kids to the sunny side of the street singing songs about bananas.

These know children so much. But do they know what counts?

Does it matter if you can identify the Red Power Ranger but you can't identify the color yellow when someone asks what color a banana is?

Does it matter if you can identify dozens of characters from TV shows but can't identify basic shapes: squares, triangles circles and hearts?

Do you get the same credit for following Dora the Explorer's instructions to count in Spanish as you do for following instructions and listening in school?

In truth, you can find brilliance in both sides of things. It takes major smarts to figure out Dora's puzzles, just as it takes mental skill to put together a complicated puzzle. But there's an added value to the school-y stuff — fair or not.

Even if it's proof of brilliance that the kids stage a coup to go to McDonald's, I still won't budge. I'm bigger than they are.

Side note: I live in Washington, D.C., so without a voting member of Congress to bug I've only got you bumblebees. Read up and call your representatives. Seriously, reps have interns who are paid to answer phones and those individuals are dying to hear from you.


Blogger Buck B. said...

When I was growing up, going to McDonald's was the ultimate treat for my brothers and I — more special than going to the zoo, seeing a movie in the theater or even getting to ride shotgun. And I don't even know why. It couldn't have been the food, which was even worse back then.

Somehow, Ronald McDonald managed to creep inside my head and set up permanent shop. I think he's gotten very good at that over the years.

Anonymous J.C. said...

Mandasaurus grew up in a family that never went to fast food restaurants. The only exception might be when McDonalds had beanie babies that her mother wanted. Kids like McDonalds because they get a toy and they get to play on the playground. They know the food sucks - they just munch a few french fries and chew on their toy and they're happy!

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