It’s Kids Week on Jeopardy. That’s the tournament where a bunch of smart fifth- and sixth-graders make the rest of us look sort of dumb. But something about the way the week kicked off disturbed me. Monday’s game ended with the Final Jeopardy category of Advertising Icons. It occurred to me then, and has bothered me more and more as I’ve thought about it, that there is something questionable about judging kids’ smarts and awarding them with money based upon their knowledge of logos. When the clue was revealed and it was pretty obvious the correct response was “Who is Ronald McDonald?”, I hoped the kids would get it wrong.
Advertising messages have been infecting Jeopardy for some time now. They have categories that are not-very-well-concealed infomercials at least a couple of times a week. I normally don’t mind this, as it helps them pay their bills and award nice checks to the winners. But to test 10- to 12-year-olds on their knowledge of advertising icons seems to belie the spirit of Jeopardy, which is supposed to be the smartest quiz show on TV. Shouldn’t we be encouraging the kids to be reading and studying and not doing the things that will be subjecting them to advertising?
I was gratified that the first two kids to reveal their responses got it wrong. But the winner got it right and he walked away with over $20,000, while the consolation prizes went to the kids who couldn’t name Ronald McDonald. No one was smiling more at that, I bet, than the people at McDonald’s corporate headquarters.