Saturday, October 20, 2007
When I first heard about the new reality show “Kid Nation”, I was horrified. What kind of parents would let their kids run around without adult supervision for 40 days, for the sake of being on TV? What would happen with these kids? I imagined a chaotic 'society' in which the bullies would run wild, scarring the other kids for life.
As I actually sat down and watched a few episodes of the show, however, I was surprised by how greatly the (portrayed) reality differed from my expectations. For the most part, the kids demontrated great maturity and dedication to what would be best for the group as a whole. They consoled one another when homesick. They took care of each other when hurt. When one district slacked on chores, the other kids came in and washed all the dishes, simply because it had to be done.
On the show, the kids are given the opportunity to rebuild society in an abandonded town called Bonanza City. (For a full description of the show, there's a great write-up on wikipedia). Each team leader is representative to a town council that makes decisions for the group. Every few days, the council is given a task to help bring order to the town. For example, the leaders are given the freedom to choose what time a town curfew should be, but must also enforce their decision.
Various challenges determine the respobsiblity of each district (winners are 'upper class' and take it easy, losers scrub toilets), and a good overall performance may result in a group prize. In a recent episode, the town earned a big reward - the choice between a collection of holy books (Bibles, the Koran, etc.) and having a miniature golf course built in their town. To my amazement, the kids chose the holy books over the golf course!
Although there are some of the scenarios one would expect absent parental supervision, there are far more examples of kids buckling down to work hard, encourage one another, and do whatever it takes to make the town succeed. Thank you Kid Nation - you've given me a renewed respect for our young people.