The White House and the nation's broadcasters came to an agreement this week that television broadcasters must air three hours a week of educational programming. Still to be decided by the Federal Communications Commission: just what "educational" means. Southern California parents told JIM BLAIR what they'd like to see in those three (or more) hours on commercial stations: no ganged-up clothing, plenty of respect for self and others, learning made thrilling and talk shows by and for kids.
Film producer and homemaker, Calabasas; has children in first, third, seventh and ninth grades
I am sorry it had to be mandated. I just think it's too little too late, personally.
I would think this is something that the networks and the producers would want to do of their own accord because that's our future. If we're going to compete globally, these kids [have to] get it together. We know they're going watch TV. There's this tremendous opportunity to provide all sorts of insights and information and interests that they won't be able to get in school.
But [networks and producers] certainly can look to those programs that have been successful. I know "Sesame Street" makes a big difference in so many young children's lives. It really does help prepare them for the pre-reading skills and to go into kindergarten and do better. My kids were just mesmerized. They couldn't take their eyes off "Sesame Street" when they were younger. "Bill Nye, The Science Guy" and "Carmen Sandiego" are all shows that I can't stop watching when I see them. My older children enjoy those.
What would also be really effective with preteens and teens would be talk shows where the teens themselves were talking.
VIRGINIA K. HUNTMAN
Homemaker, Woodland Hills; daughter in eighth grade
There's a lot of programming that's on for teenagers that's too explicit--the way they talk, a lot of disrespect toward adults. They have the children dressed in gang-look attire, the baggy clothes and all that. The commercials are that way, too; it's just horrible. They're disrespectful not only to authority but to each other and in a sense it's almost like they're learning to disrespect themselves, because if you act in a way that's inappropriate, you can't have much self-confidence or a good image of yourself.
Associate minister, First AME Church, Los Angeles; daughter in sixth grade
For her age group, things like bilingual programs and progams that are based on the same lines as they are receiving in their regular school--not so much of a tutorial program as something that would be tied in--would be helpful because the [public] educational system is very, very weak. We struggle to keep our daughter in Pilgrim private school with smaller classes and things of that nature.
I think there should be something in this new programming that conveys to the kids a certain dress code. It doesn't have to be uniforms, but clothing that is somewhat standard. All of us go through trends, but I know that we try to keep my daughter traditional in her dress even when she's with her little friends.
There are a lot of parents who have taken their kids out of [both] the public school and the private school system and they're teaching them in their home. So I would like to see some of these educational programs tailored to help children who are being educated at home.
LAUSD teacher, has children 16 months and 4 years
I have observed television to have a really large impact on my [elder] child. He's very verbal and he has the ability to be focused on something for quite a long time. So at this point he is not permitted anything but public television.
He still believes that that's the only television station we get. He goes to his baby sitter in the afternoon sometimes and he'll say that [she] gets "Batman" on her TV but we don't get it on ours. And on the days that she forgets and lets him watch those kind of shows, at the end of the day I hear [him] repeat what's on those shows and I'm not happy with it.
I would love to see some of the same kind of programs that KCET puts on; science-based programs, programs that deal with diversity and multicultural issues, history, geography like "Carmen Sandiego." Shows like "Puzzle Place" and "Wishbone"--though they're a little older--and "Sesame Street" and "Barney." They are entertaining to children and they are full of educational value. That's the kind of thing that my son watches and he gets a lot out of it.
Homemaker, Larchmont area; two sons, ages 10 and 7
The kids have a very good detector for anything that's allegedly "educational" and they'll turn it off or they just won't watch it. And [educational programming] attracts their interest only if it is able, in fact, to compete with other programs that already exist on the TV--in which case you don't need the President's initiative.