Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why I Will Let Sophia Watch ABDC*

*once I let her watch television

ABDC, for those of you who don’t know, is not part of the educatainment empire. It’s not a beginning phonics program. It does not comprise 30 minutes of Sprout's 24 hour programming for babies and preschoolers.

It’s on MTV.

Yes, you heard me right. Once a large chunk of her neural pruning has taken place and I feel fairly confident that the strobe-like editing won’t rewire her brain to attend to a stimulus for no longer than 1/10 of a second …a process, I am convinced, is the root of all ADHD. I…will…let…Sophia…watch…America’s Best Dance Crew.

In a miasma of reality TV shows in which participants are selected on the basis of their poor mental health and then exploited for profit, ABDC’s greatest fault is that it errs on the side of sentimentality. Dance crews, often from underprivileged backgrounds, battle other dance crews for the chance to be named Amercia’s Best Dance Crew and win $100,000. Much like other talent shows of its kind, there is an elaborate elimination process, much of which occurs off screen. But unlike its popular predecessor, American Idol, contestants are not humiliated for sport or amusement. Instead, its competitors are celebrated. The time between dance segments is devoted to spotlighting how crew members have transcended difficulties in their life, recounting how the crew came together, and explaining where they come from and what they represent.

On a show, where there is certainly a great deal of pressure and probably some degree of arguing—conflict never makes its way onto the screen. Instead, collaboration and teamwork is emphasized. You see the participants brainstorming and problem solving together. And then you watch them realize a collective vision as they dance in the weekly competition.

Not only do the crews dance—they choreograph their work. Given certain parameters, they come up with a concept and generate a 45-second segment. They are judged as much on their creativity as they are on their technical skill. The judges provide thoughtful, critical feedback, in a way that is meant to help the crew’s grow and improve. Similarly, the audience is respectful, cheering for all the competitors.

And when a crew is eliminated, they conduct themselves with dignity, grace, and great sportsmanship, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to be on the show, reflecting on how far they came, and commending their competitors on their success.

The show has featured crews of different sex, race, ethnicity gender identification and body-type. There have been a variety of styles of dance included: latin, roller skating, b-boying, stepping, country/western, even clogging—each treated with equal respect. And whereas the comments of the judges aren’t always politically correct, you watch them struggle with and become aware of their biases.

ABDC is about more than dance. It is about dedication to a dream and realizing that dream. It’s about being open to feedback. It’s about working effectively with others. It’s about acceptance. It’s about pride. It’s about “bringing it hard” every time. It is a model of behavior I would like Sophia to aspire to. Oh yeah, and its fun.

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