Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Children's Corner

Don't look now, but academic research is biting society in its collective societal ass again.  And when I say "society," I mean, needless to say, "SpongeBob SquarePants":


I am slightly late on the uptake of this article, which appeared last week in HealthDay News.  An excerpt:

Fast-paced TV shows like "SpongeBob SquarePants" seem to negatively affect children's concentration levels shortly after watching them, while slower-paced shows don't, a new study suggests.
"We found that young children who had just watched 'SpongeBob SquarePants' were handicapped in what you could say is their readiness for learning," said lead researcher Angeline S. Lillard, a University of Virginia psychologist.
"This included their ability to think and concentrate," she said.

Well.  I don't know about you, but I take STRONG exception to this.  As an American, I like my TV shows fast, furious, and potentially harmful to what you could say is my readiness for learning.  So I hereby blow the Great Horn of Bullshit.  Stand back:


Thank you.

Furthermore, I've got a bone to pick with you, lead researcher Angeline "S." Lillard (supposing that IS your name), if you think you can pronounce on my ability to think and concentrate.  Obviously one's personal capacity for concentration is an individual phenomenon that cannot be evaluated by any objective measOOOOH! LOOK! I CAN MAKE A ROOSTER PUPPET WITH MY HANDS! WHEE HEE HEEEE!*

Another researcher, Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis,** argues that the young mind really can't deal with events at the speed they occur on such programs as SpongeBob.  (An interesting supposition, considering that left unattended for 2.5 seconds, the Young Mind will flood the bathroom, injure himself gravely, smear paint as far away as Sweden, barf copiously on the most expensive piece of furniture around, and traumatize the cat for life, all at the speed of sound.)

"Everything our brains evolved to deal with takes place in real time," Christakis said. "It's not that we can't process these shows, we do, but it may come at a cost [...] potentially a long-term cost as you condition the brain to expect that high level of input, which makes the real pace of the world seem boring and that leads to attentional problems later in life."

So I don't know about you, but here is my scientific rebuttal: compared to SpongeBob, the real world pretty much just plain SUCKS.  The world of SpongeBob SquarePants is WAY more interesting, plus, might I submit for scientific consideration that it involves FAR fewer:
  • insurance companies
  • gynecologists
  • Teaching Assistants
  • scientific researchers
Therefore, it would be excellent, from MY particular scientific vantage-point, if we could all just quit whining our little whiny-pants heads off about it.  Let's just ask ourselves: is there really any value in seeing the harmful and unacceptable in the innocent and goofy? Believe it or not, there might actually be more profitable ways to spend our time. Picking at ourselves on the couch, for one.

Exhibit B is the ongoing intellectual discussion about - No Kidding Alert ahead - Guignol and his baton.  For those of you who don't know, Guignol is a famous French puppet, an absolute rockstar here in France, far more popular than the president,*** and he (Guignol) goes around with a baton, performing the ancient traditional French art of hitting other puppets.

So, it turns out that certain academic researcher types - who, a casual observer might opine, do not have an AWFUL lot to occupy their days - believe strongly that this baton represents the, er, male organ.  Really.  Now my personal**** feeling about this is: as if the male organ needs any help representing itself.  (Although I like the idea of its having impersonators, like Elvis.)  My own belief is that the academic researchers who hold this belief are frankly not getting enough baton, if you get my drift.

Now here's a totally radical out-there revolutionary innovative idea: why don't we all just agree to leave well enough alone?  Why don't we all just decide to look at things that are clearly innocent, and that children like, and take them for things that are innocent and that children like? Can we do that?

Thought not.

The exception to this rule, of course, is: children.  I know this because I am currently a baby-sitter for two small children, ages 5 and 2.  These two keep me honest about what children like, which, for the record, is: random goofy stuff.  The other night, the three of us improvised a puppet show that, not to brag, was frankly cutting-edge theatre.  It was entitled: "Oh No! There's A Shark in the Washing Machine."  Granted, this was in French, but same idea.  Here is the script, of which I invite you to fund a major lavish production, if you simply must:

MOOSE PUPPET: Hum-de-dum-de-dum. I think I will do some laundry today.  La-la la-la laaa!
(Opens the washing machine)
Oh, no! There's a shark in the washing machine! 



(Ten-minute pause to calm down)

PARROT PUPPET: Hum-de-dum-de-dum. I think I will do some laundry today.  La-la la-la laaa!
(Opens the washing machine)
Oh, no! There's a shark in the washing machine! 



(Repeat as desired until next Ice Age)

Don't try to tell ME that's not entertainment of lasting value.  And say what you will about SpongeBob SquarePants, I believe the same of that program.  Of course I believe we're all entitled to our own opinions, but that doesn't mean I can't believe that some of us hold only - prepare for scholarly language now - weenie-butt opinions. 

But seriously? Feel free to express them as you wish.  I mean, it's not as though I can stop you anyway.  For one thing, I'm WAY too preoccupied with this shark game.  So opine away, everyone.  That's what makes the world go round, n'est-ce pas?

And if you are truly just too annoying to live, you might do us all a favor and go spend some quiet time with your baton.

* Of course really.  I learned it from watching Shari Lewis on TV as a child.  See?

** Yes, both of these researchers have middle initials.  Do NOT think this is a coincidence.
*** Oh, you know, that guy.
**** Ha ha! Personal! Get it?


The Old Wolf said...

His cousin, Omigauddefir Christsakes, recommends watching only "Leave it to Beaver" reruns for maximum cerebral enhancement.

BobP said...

Will "Oh No! There's A Shark in the Washing Machine!" join the repertoire of THE MIGHTY TATTERDEMALIONS?

Nicola said...

@ BobP: haha, I hope so! I smell a sleeper hit!

Tigre said...

Thanks. Out here on the side of a mesa in New Mexico, found your Dad's
work online, and...life's a LOT better.
And the researcher(!) hasn't a clue. All humans process stuff a lot faster than she seems to think she thinks, although back when Edie was young we all knew this.

Ask yourself how the Brit air wardens in WW2 were able to split-second choose which planes diving at 600 mph to shoot...and which to not...before radar? There were training programs, with which I won't bore you right now, but the side value was that they sped up consciousness a LOT...to about the speed children perceive...of course with the advent of electronics, ordinary humans have gotten a lot slower. Dolts have multiplied, too.
So don't slow your kids down. Although there's more to life than staring at any lit framed square for very long.

Unknown said...

Thanks to this post I will be stuck with the mental picture of male organs wearing white leather jackets studded with rhinestones for the rest of the day.