Monday, February 04, 2008

NPR Junkie

I'm kind of addicted to National Public Radio, because I don't have cable at home. Even on the road, I try to find the local NPR station to avoid turning on the boob tube in hotel rooms. I had a "driveway moment" as NPR calls them - where I sat in my car to listen to the rest of the story.

It was about Robin Epstein and her old job, "as producer and chief question writer on a game show for teen-age girls called Plugged In. It was one of the first shows to air on the Oxygen network, the TV channel for women created by Oprah Winfrey. Robin had hoped that the show could serve as a role model for young women, showing smart teen girls answering tough questions. But in the end, it sort of did the opposite. (10 minutes)"

I believe you'll be able to hear it by clicking on and looking for the last fifteen minutes or so.

The story opens with Robin talking about that up until age 12, girls are all about participating in class, knowing the answer, etc., so she bucked research and thought that a game show for teen girls would fill a niche - to show the world how smart girls are. Unfortunately, the questions were pretty obscure (politics, economics) for your typical teenage girl (would I have known who Bob Dole was at age 16?) and soon, the girls would refuse to even try to answer. So instead of getting questions that the girls might be able to answer - they seriously started making them go into the audience to get an autograph of the "cutest" boy. Yeah. Did this just reinforce the stereotype? Is it an all or nothing proposition? Is a trivia game show a good indicator of intelligence? Is there a disconnect between what we're teaching in schools and what we can regurgitate at will? Do we need to have kids study out of school to become really intelligent?

What do you think? In the words of Robin, do you agree "girls are dumb?" Should we decide its too difficult to "try and improve the quality of girls?" As she says, maybe we can find "a role model that could have this influence, but it's not a game show."

This American Life show #326 Quiz Show.

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