Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What is and what isn't Kansas

There's been a flap in Napa lately over a high school that wants to require freshman to take a geography course. The required class would cause some kids to lose the option of an elective, or have a longer day of classes. Some people have pointed out how rotten we've gotten at knowing where things are on the map. About once a year you get the news story on how kids can't locate their own state on a map, or can't locate the map in the glove box, or can't remember where they parked the car. Actually, those last two problems are about me, not about kids today. But don't try to distract me.

This relates to today's problem: the town of Jericho in the CBS TV show appears to be somewhere in California. (Relax, this will all tie together in the end.)

I put this show in my "guilty pleasures" category, because it is badly acted and kind of soap-opera like, but I dig the post-catastrophe scenario and it has a little currency to it what with the terrorist nuclear strike aspect. And you know there's nothing more fun than gathering the family around the tube for a rollicking good show about nuclear terrorism and societal collapse.

The problem, though, is that every time they show an exterior shot on location, the terrain is ever so certainly not Kansas, it's laughable. "I knew Kansas, and you, sir, are no Kansas!" It's the same thing you see in most of the TV shows and movies - southern California standing in for the rest of the country.

This is particularly poignant for me. Growing up in Missouri, I devoured all the Gene Autry and Roy Rogers shows I could get, not knowing all that wild west racing by under Trigger's hooves was southern California - not knowing the Ponderosa would have been a lot dustier if they were really in Nevada - not knowing that little pond where Andy and Opie did their fishing was on the back lot at Universal. I thought the whole world outside of Missouri had rolling hills covered in golden grass and spreading oak trees, and rocky escarpments with graceful pines. Later, watching the John Ford westerns, I would be lulled into believing every great character of western fame did all their business in Monument Valley.

This is why I believe kids need geography, and they also need to travel around and see the real world. There's a whole industry down there in SoCal that is trying to make everyone feel terrain envy. Today's kids need the reassurance that their own terrain is just fine the way it is.

Save the children! Teach geography!

1 comment:

Tim Hayhurst said...

I totally agree with you Barry. And I also have found myself watching the drama unfold in Jericho's series.