[pl_amazon_book_order src="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=perslibedige-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=1596981512&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr"]Maybe you can’t tell a book by its cover, but the jacket of Don’t Let The Kids Drink The Kool-Aid by Marybeth Hicks doesn’t inspire much confidence. On the front jacket, just beneath the book’s title, a youngster lies on a hardwood floor, chin in hands, elbows on floor, contentedly absorbed in watching a Presidential speech on television. And you have to wonder what alternative universe gave birth to that image. No kid I’ve ever known would sit still for even a moment and watch a politician droning on and on and on. If the President comes on the screen, the children who have inhabited my living room would have whipped out the remote control (from under the sofa cushions) and been desperately searching for something with more action than a politician’s lips flapping. They’d be looking for cars exploding, bullets flying, superheroes saving the day. Anything but a talking head.
But, I opened the book and figured maybe I could give the author the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps an art director at the publishing company had picked out the cover and Hicks hadn’t seen it. Or she’d been talked into thinking the languid child on the cover represented the power of political propaganda to lure innocent children into doing something no parent has ever managed to pull off – get them to hold still and watch really boring television.
Just like the unconvincing cover, though, Hicks’ opinions inside the book, arguing that left-wing control of the media is turning kids into socialist zombies ready to drink the Kool-Aid served up by agenda-driven puppet masters who dwell in hidden Hollywood mansions, is pretty far-fetched. Yes, most of what MTV and other youth-oriented networks put on the tube is pretty trashy. Yes, the attitudes evinced by sitcom characters are appalling. (They insult each other, they insult their parents and they’re generally obnoxious.) And, yes, it’s a safe bet that many creative people putting out movies and TV shows lean to the left.
But should we believe Hicks that films like “Bambi,” put out by that well-known socialist Walt Disney, have tried to make us all into radical environmentalists just because one of the animators was ardently in favor of protecting national parks?
Telling parents to turn off the garbage their kids are watching on television and limit their kids’ unsupervised use of the Internet seems like pretty obvious advice. You don’t need to reference a few shows with left-wing sympathies to know that parents need to take responsibility for their kids’ media diet. It seems pretty self-evident that most pop culture is a waste of time that kids could be using to play outside. Or read a decent book.
Unfortunately, Hicks strays from being obvious and banal into seriously irresponsible territory when she shifts from arguing for censorship of entertainment to questioning the need to limit the marketing of junk foods to juveniles. Does she really believe that we should squeeze SpongeBob SquarePants out of kids’ viewing diet but allow commercial cartoon characters to convince kids to get hooked on high fructose corn syrup?
Hicks maintains that the childhood obesity epidemic, which has been substantiated by myriad studies and statistics, is a myth. She quotes Brian Wansink, a Cornell researcher who has studied America’s overeating habits, as saying that the obesity problem “… gets really blown out of proportion.” Wansink may have said words to that effect on a radio show once. But she neglects to tell us that Wansink is co-director of Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (BEN), an organization that has joined with the Federal government to fight childhood obesity. That hardly supports the proposition that Wansink thinks juvenile obesity is a myth. And Hicks never does get around to telling us that Wansink has joined forces with the very anti-obesity efforts that she derides.
At one point, Hicks tell us, “I’m not arguing against the merits of a healthier school lunch.” No, but she’s against taking any practical steps to trying to make that happen. She also looks for support for her position from the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). Talk about a hidden agenda. The Center for Consumer Freedom is a front organization for fast food chains like Wendy’s and Arby’s. The group was originally started in 1995 with money from the tobacco industry to try to make sure Americans continued to use unhealthy products. It has reportedly been banned from YouTube for undisclosed “terms of service violations” and once posted a video criticizing Charlotte’s Web for encouraging kids to refuse to eat bacon.
Toward the end of her book, Hicks implores us that, “If our children’s generation is to answer the call to greatness, we must raise the bar of our expectations.” In that vein, parents can and should talk to their kids about the politics of their country and what they believe in. Those same parents should oversee the television, movies and videos that their kids consume.
But we need to protect the health of our children so that they have a future within which to be great. As a country, we need to stop subsidizing the heavy dose of corn syrup and fast foods that are wrecking kids’ health. While Hicks hides behind the language of freedom to support giant corporations whose oversized profits depend on children’s oversized waistlines, the truth is parents need to monitor the commercials kids watch as well as the shows those advertisements sponsor. Our children’s bodies and minds depend on that vigilance.