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If you haven’t seen “Kid Nation” yet, and you want to and still want to be surprised then it might be a good idea if you pass on this.  In other words, there may be spoilers.

“Kid Nation” is the show where they take 40 kids, drop them off in an abandoned ghost town and let them fend for themselves, with no adults to influence what they do.

I’m not a big fan of “reality” TV.  I’ve never seen an episode of “Survivor” or “Big Brother” or shows like that.  I’ve only seen enough of “The Real World” to be able to turn it off.  “Kid Nation,” though, I find fascinating.

There are some problems, though.  Like most “reality” shows, I think it’s a hoax.  In fact, I know it’s at least ¾  hoax because these kids are not left without adults.  There are adults manning the cameras, at the very least.  Presumably there’s a director there.  One would hope that there’s some sort of EMT standing by in case someone gets run over by a cow.  Also, the town isn’t a ghost town.  It’s an abandoned movie set.  So we know that it’s not going to turn into Lord of the Flies.

At some point in the episode the town council gets together and decides who wins the big weekly prize.  This prize is a gold star that weighs two pounds and is worth $20,000.00.  A nice chunk of change.  So, the council gets together to decide who gets this thing.  Whoever they feel contributed the most towards making their western town, Bonanza, a working and humming city.  Or, whoever happens to have a birthday.  Either one.

The winner of this star gets a key to the only building that has a phone so they can call their parents and tell them the good news.  Now here is where it gets tricky.  The kid wins the star, gets the key and is shown running out of one building, then the camera cuts to them unlocking the door on the phone booth and making their call.  Then the camera switches to the kids parents.  I’m all for creative editing, but do they keep a film crew at every kids house on the day the star gets awarded?  And the parents never seem to be surprised.  I’m sure if my kid called and said they won twenty grand I’d be a bit more emotional than just, “Wow, that’s great.  Yeah, we sure miss you.  Be good, okay?”  In addition to that, they show an interview of the kid between getting the star and calling the parents.  They’re holding the star, but talking as if they haven’t talked to the parents yet.  It takes away from the spontaneity.

If the show is at least 50% on the up-and-up, then I wonder what kind of effect it will have on these kids in the long run.

Right now it’s popular to cite child abuse and child labor laws.  I agreed with this at first, but after some thought I’m not so sure.

I think about what life must have been like, back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, for kids.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t easy.  I know that there were chores that needed to be done, and if they weren’t they got a whoopin’ for it.  The chores could be anything from cleaning the house to slopping the pigs to beheading chickens for dinner.  It was hard work and there was no time for boredom.

In one episode of “Kid Nation” they did behead chickens.  I thought this was horrible at first but, if we’re still working on the assumption that the show is mostly honest, it was the kids’ choice to do this.  Will that act turn these kids into psychopathic serial killers, or give them an understanding of the food chain that we all follow?  Will it give them an appreciation of life?  Yes, these kids do some dumb stuff, like chasing down cows and walking around in a sand storm.  But these are things that they would be doing anyway, if given half a chance.  I know I used to do some dumb things when I was a kid and didn’t have an adult standing over me.  Should any of the adults nearby step in and stop them?  I’m not so sure.

Maybe we’re too soft on children today.  Maybe we’re creating the problems that we see today by cutting down on the amount of homework they have, by not giving them more chores to do at home, by not giving them a whack on the butt when they get out of line.

When I watch this show I see a group of kids trying to do something.  They’re learning to work together to complete a challenge.  They’re learning that by putting in a lot of work on a challenge it gives them a chance to relax a bit later on.  They’re learning that money must be earned and that if you want to buy something from the general store then you need to have saved up enough money to buy it.  They’re learning that some of their fellows kids are slackers and, rather than let them slide, they take them to task about it — even if it means bringing them to tears.  They’re learning to work together, to make choices that are good for everyone, not just themselves.  Is that worth sleeping on the floor or uprighting a fallen outhouse?

Look at your own house.  Do you see kids who sit around watching TV all day?  Giving you a hassle about picking up their clothes or doing the dishes?  Wanting money, constantly, without doing anything for it?  Do they talk back and sass you?  What will these kids be like when they grow up?

Maybe we all have too much free time on our hands.  All of us.