Parents relate to quiz show challenge

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

When it comes to empowering fifth-graders, nothing compares to the Fox network's new television quiz show.

"Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" pits adults against fifth-graders, testing their knowledge of facts found in grade-school textbooks.

The show has proved to be a ratings success. It scored the biggest opening audience -- nearly 27 million viewers -- of any series on a television network in more than eight years.

A lot of parents can relate to the challenge of trying to compete against fifth-graders. And a lot of children, no doubt, like the premise of making adults answer all those classroom questions for a change.

As the father of a fifth-grader, I clearly understand the show's message: That grown-ups might not be as smart as children.

Personally, I think that's a little harsh.

After all, it's been a long time since a lot of us were in the fifth grade. We've long sense deleted some of our mental files. The textbooks some of us read are no longer in print.

I've reviewed some of Bailey's math homework. Some of it can confuse even parents.

Of course, I was confused about math when I was in elementary school so perhaps I'm just following a lifelong trend.

Fortunately, my fifth-grade daughter enjoys math more than I do. She doesn't have to rely on my math skills.

One thing's for certain, there's plenty of homework in fifth grade. Bailey seems to have a homework assignment almost nightly.

My wife and I often help her with her homework. So I know what these children are learning.

They are learning about reptiles and amphibians, and George Washington and the American Revolution.

If you're going to succeed in fifth grade, you need to know that a turtle isn't an amphibian. You also find out about things like the Stamp Act and the French and Indian War. The latter is kind of confusing because the French and Indians were basically on the same side. They fought against the American colonists who at that time were still British colonists.

I've always liked history. I think I've read more of Bailey's social studies textbook this year than she has.

But when it comes to math and science, I might need a refresher course.

I'm glad that a major television network has decided to base a show on fifth-grade curriculum. It gives new meaning to continuing education.

And for those of us old enough to remember when air conditioning meant rolling down the car window, it might jog our memories of long-ago class lessons.

And some of us might find that we actually are smarter than fifth-graders when it comes to at least some academic questions.

Of course, as parents, most of us can't begin to understand the mind of a fifth-grader. Such a child can be almost as difficult to understand at times as a teenager.

When Bailey and her friends converse, I find myself at times wanting the services of a translator. Fortunately, I don't have to be quizzed about such social interaction.

As for the TV show, I think it has a lot of merit.

I'm sure that sooner or later, an enterprising producer will take it to the next level: A quiz show pitting fifth-graders against adults on a primitive island. That would give true meaning to the word "survivor."

Imagine if a TV network would build a quiz show around Missouri Assessment Program questions. Maybe we could improve test scores all over the state.

Of course, adults might find it too challenging.

Sooner or later, we all want the tests to be graded on the curve.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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