January 12, 2019

Getting Kids Interested in Science with MythBusters Jr.

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I watched the first two episodes of MythBusters Jr. At the time I'm writing this, I believe only two episodes have aired so far, so it is still quite new. For those who haven't seen it (or the almost constant ads for it), it is basically a reboot of the original MythBusters with Adam but no Jamie or any of the others and a cast of older children and young teens in their place. I realize that may sound a bit strange, but it seems to work so far.

While I have little doubt that the original show helped to get many kids excited about science, this one should be even more effective in that respect because it features kids doing science. I think that is the coolest aspect of the new show. We get to see extremely bright and capable young people using science to test various myths. At a time where science seems to be under attack and in a country with a long history of devaluing science, I think we need something like this on television.

If I was going to offer a criticism of the new show, it would simply be that they spend far too much time playing highlights from the original MythBusters show. I realize they are only two shows in, but I'm already finding this annoying and hope they will stop it soon. I was a fan of the original show, but I think they need to let this one stand on its own. If they don't, they will doom it to being little more than a copy. Let the kids take center stage and not play in anyone's shadow.

I have seen a few complaints about the racial diversity of the kids from the sort of people who complain about such things on social media. The issue seems to be that it looks like the producers went out of their way to select one kid from each racial group. As far as I'm concerned, this is a ridiculous thing for anyone to get upset about. For far too long, people of color have watched television shows in which nobody looked like them. I think it is nice that we are now getting some attempts to diversify the cast of at least some shows. Not only will kids get to see other kids excited about science, but they just might get to see kids who look like them getting excited about science.

Evangelical fundamentalist Christians have held science back for too long in the United States. In addition, our children have faced social pressures telling them that it is not cool to be smart or to be interested in science. It is past time for this to change. Contrary to the wild claims of some Christians, I do not "worship science," nor do I "believe in science" in the way they mean it. I respect science and regard it as the most useful method we have for learning about the world around us. As a chronic pessimist, I have no illusions about science saving us from ourselves. At the same time, even I find it hard to be pessimistic when I see eager children grinning from ear-to-ear as they use science to test what often turn out to be false beliefs. We need more of that, and I am glad that MythBusters Jr. is providing it.