Friday, November 12, 2010

Lakeshore - the Cultural Mosaic gets Trashed ...

I, not having cable, have never seen Jersey Shores. But I HAVE seen the promo for the Canadian rip-off, Lakeshore, which is coming soon to some channel near you that will, thankfully, not be beaming in through my bunny ears. This promotional video is so mired in reality television tropes, that I seriously thought it was a satire when I first saw it on a friend’s facebook feed (he was so appalled that he didn’t want to confirm it was real, and didn’t want to check up on whether it had been mentioned in the news so he could remain in his belief that it was a joke …. But of course he shared it with the rest of us …). We have the under-dressed 20-somethings who all describe themselves as “fun”, “sexy”, “crazy”, or some combination thereof. It appears they do things like drink a lot and show off their chests. They maybe live in the same house, but there doesn’t appear to be any kind of contest inherent in the show. What is fascinating is that the producers have decided to cast all first- or second-generation Canadians, who are identified by their ethnic origin: “the Armenian;” “the Vietnamese” etc. There is nary a WASP in sight. On the one hand, it’s an interesting concept – a recognition of the cultural mosaic that is Toronto, which is a good thing. But, ah, then you have “the Turk” saying “I’m not racist. I hate everyone equally. Especially Jewish people,” and I’m pretty sure that this stereotypical parody of a reality show is going to keep its cultural diversity message at the level of stereotypical parody of the stars’ native cultures …. I sure hope that fine minds at Racialicious get a whiff of this – I’d love to see some good analysis from someone more qualified than myself (and, uh, with cable …).

Too Smart for Everyday Life

As a child, I benefitted from our board of education’s “enrichment” program. I got to leave class to do fun activities once a week, and spend a day with kids from all over the county once a month. We did science projects and word puzzles. I remember visiting the weather station in Wiarton once. We made friends and had crushes on all the “exotic” kids who were from some small town other than the one in which we’d grown up. But I spent most of my time in my own class with the kids who lived on my block, who were in my Sunday School class, who were born down the hall from me at the same hospital.

And I am very grateful that I had the opportunities I did through Trail (as our program was called). But I am also very grateful that I did spend most of my time in my “normal” class. I think that growing up with people with different interests and abilities is important. As I’ve continued my education, my direct circle of friends and acquaintances has become more and more educationally (and socio-economically) homogenous. What would I have gained if that streaming had started when I was 8?

All of this is one of the many reasons why I was so annoyed with the following paragraph in a Globe and Mail article about “gifted” programs for children: “Calgary parent Ralamy Kneeshaw didn’t want to wait until Grade 4, so she worked to get her son enrolled at Westmount in Grade 3. “They don’t become gifted at Grade 4,” she says. Her son was enjoying some extra attention at his old school in a “pull-out” program once a week, but it wasn’t enough. “He was only gifted for an hour a week. He loved that. But then he had to go back to regular everyday life.””

This parent has a completely skewed vision of what it means to be “gifted”. Her child is “gifted” all the time. Whatever intellectual capabilities have gotten him labelled as such exist no matter what kind of classroom setting he’s in. It’s the preferential treatment that he only gets once a week. And maybe that’s ok. A lot of life, even for those of us blessed with a superior intellect at the age of 8, as this child apparently is, is “regular everyday life”. I can hardly imagine that this parent is helping her son to be anything other than dissatisfied with it, if she expects his talents to be developed and catered to every minute of every day. A child who is raised to believe he’s too good for regular everyday life is not likely to turn out to be the kind of person we will want leading our next generation – an aspiration perhaps worthy for overly-involved parents of gifted kids?