Important Lessons for Kids

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I’m not rich, but I still splurged on a live-in nanny to raise my kids. Her name is cable TV, and she’s the best $150 a month I’ve ever spent. This budget-rate caregiver enables me to finish important work like writing this article or taking naps. I love how easy cable makes it for me to ignore my kids, but sometimes I worry about the lessons it teaches them. For one thing, I’m pretty sure it showed my 1-year-old Mae how to hit the power button. We have an older TV that takes 45 seconds to shut down or start up, so when my toddler turns it off we’re all plunged into an awkward silence that seems eternal. The last time it happened, I almost had to talk to my family. I still have nightmares.

Cable also teaches my daughters how to be better people, which is exactly the opposite of what they should learn at this age. There’s plenty violence and nudity on our 2,000 channels to show my kids how society really works, but instead our programing package lies to them with educational, age-appropriate shows. The sanitized, hope-filled world portrayed by kid-friendly stations like Sprout gives my offspring unrealistic expectations that will be smashed by a lifetime of disappointments. TV shouldn’t make my kids more virtuous; it should teach them the following vices to help them thrive in a corrupt world.

The appeal of Muppets is so universal they’re even used to entertain the troops. That explains why we don’t win wars anymore.
Dishonesty
Every time Elmo instructs my children to tell the truth, a copy of the Fifth Amendment bursts into flames. The only person I want my kids to be honest with is me, and even then they’re better off lying.  If I hear a loud crash in the next room, my curiosity is limited at best. It’s not like I’m going to use forensic evidence to piece together what really happened. As long as both of my daughters survive whatever it was and my wife wasn’t home to see or hear it, then I’m more than willing to pretend it didn’t happen. If my 3-year-old Betsy lies and says she didn’t attempt to bungee jump off the top of the fridge, I’ll shrug and let it go. My greatest parenting skill is selective ignorance.

My kids will need to totally disregard the truth if they hope to thrive in the real world. Whether it’s a white lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or a coordinated coverup to beat a murder wrap, dishonesty is the ideal way to avoid consequences. I’m still waiting for Bert and Ernie to tell my kids how good it feels to get away with a felony. It takes courage to invent a lie and stick with it, but the target audience for these shows is the five-and-under crowd. For those toddlers who can’t stand up to an intense police interrogation, children’s TV should show them how to hire a trained professional to lie on their behalf. That’s the entire purpose of lawyers.

The best defense against baseless criminal charges is to hide the body better.
Selfishness
If this were the 1950s, every animator for children’s cartoons would be locked up as a communist sympathizer. All day long, fictional characters tell my daughters to put the needs of others before their own. That sort of altruism is a great way to end up bitter and poor. Rumor has it Mother Teresa’s last act on earth was to flip off all those poor people. The warm fuzzy, feeling that results from being a good person won’t pay the mortgage or buy groceries. Endorphins are even more useless than Bitcoins.

There’s a reason jobs that require a social work degree pay less than most sweatshops. The hippies behind “Sesame Street” convinced generations of children that the difference between a dystopia and a better world is one enthusiastic 20-something with a dream and a pocket full of food stamps. But for every do-gooder on a mission, there’s someone like me who purposely makes society worse out of boredom and spite. Anyone who isn’t part of the problem is on the losing team. My kids are in for a lifetime of failure if they side with Cookie Monster over me.

Discontentment
Having high self-esteem is a euphemism for celebrating massive character flaws. I’ve long been a champion of laziness, but at least I have the self-awareness to be a ashamed of myself when I lie on the couch and eat my fourth box of Girl Scout cookies. There’s a pervasive message in children’s television that tells kids they’re perfect just the way they are. That puts America students at disadvantage to their counterparts in other countries, where kids who don’t show measurable self-improvement every day are denied food. It’s easy to pick out the bad test-takers overseas because they’re shorter than everyone else. Kids who are happy with themselves exactly as they are right now lack the drive to get better and smarter. Too bad reality doesn’t care about feelings. If the math is wrong, the rocket blows up, no matter how many participation medals those engineers earned in middle school.

Newtonian physics are flawed because they don’t take into account personal feelings of self-worth.
Content people don’t change history, but to be fair, no one else does either. The past already happened, and American scientists are too busy being proud of themselves to invent time travel. Feelings of inadequacy are what drive men to do great things, like land on the moon and invent male enhancement pills. People who grow up believing themselves to be unique, special snowflakes have nothing to prove, and that’s exactly how much they accomplish. Children’s TV shouldn’t make kids feel good about themselves; it should fill them with existential angst.

If children’s TV would show kids how to be dishonest, selfish, and discontent, public schools would be redundant. This country could shut down the education system and save billions of dollars as long as Muppets can create a generation of social deviants and teach them calculus. Learning in front of a cold, impersonal TV is superior to the classroom experience in every way. The world will be a better place when we finally turn over total control of our lives to extended cable.