kidzania insania

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I’ve noticed that many parents unconsciously think that raising kids is about them: what they have to do, tolerate, manage, feed, shuttle, kiss. Sadly, that cramped view has created much of the pathetic society we live in.

Having a child is a crucial privilege, not a obligation. It is a job—the most consequential one you’ll ever have—but as I taught my kids: work and play are selfsame…or they should be. Your ‘mission’ is to give rise to a decent adult human, one who has a sizable vision beyond shopping, soothing and Selfies. Caregivers: you’re forging the next world community.

The rant-ress isn’t suggesting it’s only parental activity that forms this. No. This paradigm is profoundly sick, but you as a parent can be conscious of what impact you and the culture does that could thwart or support your child, and select the latter. It should rarely be about choosing easy. Choose impeccable.

The New Yorker recently published an article about KidZania, a franchise, started near Mexico City (malls adjacent for the adults). It doesn’t offer thrill rides like Disneyland but instead gives kids the “chance to enact the roles of grownups” in a stylized city that’s “corporate, sanitized, market driven.” This urbanity has it’s own currency (kidzos), debit cards, banks, factories, branding stuccoed everywhere, police, courts, jail, insurance agents…and kids do various jobs for ‘entertainment,’ and $$.

Does KidZania also provide strip clubs, grow operations and bars, too? Because we adults know the world of grownups slotted into a soul-shrinking financially-driven culture creates a notorious need for unhealthy soothing.

KidZania‘s CEO believes that children love this because they get to make their own decisions about what they’ll do in this faux metropolis. “We don’t tell them anything. Just cash your check, get money and start spending…”

This might appear to be ‘imaginative play,’ to act the adult, but it’s not. The “Zupervisors” follow cue cards in all activities offered. Sure, kids pick their activity but they’re done for them. There’s no actual discovery, no genuine exploration because it’s all adult propelled. The “industry partners” like Coke, McD’s, Walmart, Domino’s… are there to create a “more authentic experience” of the world. Yeah, right.

What the kids did appreciate about KidZania was autonomy—what my generation experienced when children. We usually played outside all day, everyday—unsupervised—with who we chose, inventing games and rules, brokering between ourselves. When I was seven, I wrote and produced a play [me, the murderer wearing a black leotard] in my neighbor’s garage for our parents, even crafting the tickets. Our moms only helped with costuming by directing us to storage closets.

The rant-ress typically disapproves of team sports for kids vs. ‘personal best’ sports: skateboarding, biking, surfing, snowboarding, tag…because the former is often coach (adult) driven with established rules. Little room for critical thinking, negotiation or personal choice. I hesitate to yearn for the ‘good ole days’ of parents smoking/drinking on the patio while dismissing us kids to sort the world out among ourselves.

Today’s paradigm is hard enough on children without viewing them as marketing targets, exploiting their ‘purity’ and their belief that we want the best for them instead of low-maintenance interactions. Could we PLEASE let child-play be child-play and stay the “f” out of it? This latest ‘disguised educational entertainment’ capitalizes on childhood joy and trains kids to grow up to be characterless minions. It’s dishonorable.

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