What Passes As Edutainment

I thoroughly enjoyed my Father's Day. Wake up, watch soccer, eat fantastic Mexican (if you're in Cincinnati and you don't frequent El Rancho Grande, you have issues), and preach at Echo Church. The older Kaelyn gets, the more I enjoy her company. She's becoming her own little person. Sure, she still throws a fit here and there, but overall she's fantastic. I can't wait for her to continue to mature. I'm anticipating some fascinating conversations in the years to come. Our little creature of habit loves ending her day by viewing one of her shows. The advent of the DVR allows us to easily record her favorite shows for viewing at her bedtime. We she was smaller, she loved a show on TLC called Peep and the Big Wide World. While she still enjoys an occasional viewing of this program, it's no longer her passion; she has made the transition to PBS shows. But instead of enjoying the puppet characters of Sesame Street, she has chosen another genre altogether.

Kaelyn's latest obsession is the PBS show Dinosaur Train. It's a computer animated show produced by the Jim Henson company (at least that's somewhat close to the Muppets). The premise is that a dinosaur family (Pteranodans and an adopted T-Rex) learns about their kind traversing the dino-world on a train. But not only can the train travel distances, it can also travel through time by entering a tunnel. This is the vehicle by which the dinosaurs learn all sorts of things, and the information is passed along to the child in an entertaining way.

But more so than any other of her programs, this show has started to annoy me in endless ways. I try not to pay attention to it, but it's somewhat grating and I have to get it off my chest. Even though you might be unfamiliar with my gripes, I present to you my list:

1) I have yet to observe any money exchanged in this dinosaur world and yet tickets are necessary to ride the train. What kind of currency do dinosaurs use? And how do they hang onto it, as I've never seen it in their hands and they have no pockets?

2) So the dinosaurs developed the technology not only for rail travel, but for time travel as well. If they were this technologically advanced, why couldn't they avoid becoming extinct?

3) And if these dinosaurs could harness the power of time travel, why are they limited to traveling only in the dinosaur era. I would be interested in episodes that had the dinosaurs assaulting serfs in medieval Europe.

4) The conductor on the train always declares, "Time tunnel approaching." But this is a false statement. The tunnel is stationary; it ain't going anywhere. In reality, the train is approaching the time tunnel. I've attempted to explain this to Kaelyn, but she isn't having it.

5) The show continually references the difference between carnivores and herbivores (meat-eaters verses plant-eaters). But they manage to do this without recognizing the major flaw in the show's premise: one day, when the T-Rex grows up, he will eat his Pteranadon family. I eagerly anticipate this very special episode of Dinosaur Train, the cultural parallel to Jessie Spano's caffeine pill abuse episode on Saved By The Bell.

6) In a holiday version of Dinosaur Train, the family celebrates the winter solstice. I can predict why producers did this: no one wants religious wars being waged during children's programming, so assert that the prehistoric era was before Judaism and Christianity, so the dinosaurs wouldn't celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas. But winter solstice is a pagan holiday, created by humans who (supposedly) lived after dinosaurs as well. So in an effort to be politically correct and religiously neutral, the Dinosaur Train teaches my daughter to be a good pagan. SIDENOTE: I will continue to deprogram my daughter from the many pagan rituals she will be exposed to throughout her childhood.

7) And, finally, when the paleontologist ends the episode by relaying his "scientific expertise" he often admits that he's just speculating. So they're teaching these kids "facts" that aren't necessarily facts, but he's still smug about it.

In the end, I know I should just lighten up. Kaelyn now knows more about dinosaurs than I do (even though she would be expelled from the Creation Museum). I ought to simply be thankful that it isn't Teletubbies.