The Controversial Side of Edutainment

If you work in the entertainment industry (or are hopeful you will soon), take note: there’s a rapidly growing trend that might not be what it seems.

Recently, political leaders have been pushing to offer incentives – like lower tuition costs – for students who pursue degrees in certain areas of study, particularly those in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The idea is that people will always be needed in these fields to handle future complexities in medicine, national defense and community development, just to name a few; additionally, America’s reputation for being a leader in scientific discoveries and medical breakthroughs is at stake.

With an increasing emphasis in today’s world on providing knowledge for our future leaders, the intersection of education and entertainment comes to the forefront. Although separately they represent entirely different purposes in our society, they are facing blurred lines in the form of “edutainment” – defined as games, films or shows designed to teach something.

In an effort to combat a shortage of future scientists and engineers, Congress enacted the Children’s Television Act in 1990 that requires broadcast television stations to air a minimum of three hours per week of educational programming. According to the FCC website, this kind of programming “is specifically designed to serve the educational and informational needs of children 16 years of age and under, including the child’s intellectual/cognitive or social/emotional needs.”

Increasing the amount of educational programming is a good thing, right? Not necessarily. Assuming that programs on Nick Jr. are sufficient to provide a working base of knowledge for young children can be dangerous.

“Research has demonstrated that children do not learn what they need to know about numbers as a side effect of free play activities with a math theme, such as puzzles, blocks, or songs,” according to an article from the research-based application developers at NativeBrain. “Reliably developing the conceptual foundations of number sense requires explicit and intentional focus on the number concepts and their formal relationships.”

Although edutainment should not be considered the “meat and potatoes” foundation of our future scientists’ education, it also doesn’t hurt growth or development in young children. As long as parents and teachers are focusing on a comprehensive education with some Dora the Explorer or Sesame Street thrown in, our next generation (from mathematicians to artists) will have a fighting chance.

Want to be a part of an industry that aims to positively impact young people? Find TV jobs, broadcasting jobs and other jobs in the entertainment industry at

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