The teacher wheeled the TV into the room, slid a gigantic videocassette into our school’s newest piece of technology, the VCR, and pressed Play. I was transfixed. I’m not sure if Scared Straight got any results in the real world, but it certainly made an impression on me. The language! The anger! The tattoos! I wasn’t planning a life of crime (bank robbery would have taken too much time from my Dungeons and Dragons hobby), but let’s just say that I redoubled my commitment to the rule of law.
Years later, I recalled Scared Straight when pondering the challenge of bringing up kids in our prosperous, self-esteem-saturated culture.
Do you want to teach your kids the value of self-awareness? Have them watch early auditions on American Idol, where completely untalented, screeching wannabe pop stars are shocked, shocked to hear they won’t be famous. Your child’s jaw will drop at the high and public cost of self-delusion.
That could be you, sweetie, if we weren’t honest with you like we are.
Do you want to teach your child the value of humility? Turn on the early episodes of any given season of Survivor, where grandstanding, muscular guys are brought low year after year by illness, starvation, or the quiet 40-year-old firefighter — leaving behind a trail of broken dreams and embarrassing boasts.
You can even teach them of the perils of the inconstant heart. Year after year, the best-laid plans of the dreadlocked, super-cool aspiring actors of Survivor are waylaid by the mere sight of a young girl in a bikini.