For those outside the country: Australia’s Brainiest Kid is a TV show that will allegedly choose the, well, you get it. I’m not sure if other countries have similar shows, but I guess it’s likely.
I watched most of the show this weekend and parts of it on the weekend before; they were two of the “preliminaries”, and only one kid from each goes to the final. There are seven preliminaries and one grand final, with nine children (11 or 12 years old) in each (the final two spots in the final are “wildcards”, apparently selected by the producers from among the kids who failed to qualify). The prize is a $20,000 trust to be released when the kid reaches 18 (plus a laptop for the winner of each preliminary).
I really like the idea of the show. Most of the kids are really smart (not just knowledgeable about some specific subject; they seem to be actually able to think, rather than just collect random facts) and likeable, although you also get one or two arrogant brats (and boy, do those look arrogant) in each lot (they didn’t win either of the shows I watched). And more than a few of them are really disappointed, or even surprised, when they don’t win; some are clearly holding back tears while Sandra Sully congratulates them on getting that far.
I’m guessing that many of those — not all of them — are somewhat geeky (or even nerdy) and don’t hang out with many similarly smart kids, so that show may be their first contact with children that are as smart as or smarter than themselves. And that can be a shock, especially for a 12-year-old, and especially if they find this out by failing at an intellectual challenge, possibly for the first time in their lives. Those are kids that breeze through school without really studying all that much; not being able to win can come as a surprise. I know this from my experience going into college: what do you mean, just going to lectures and browsing the textbook is not enough to get an A anymore? (well, at least not in some Math subjects) That was an awakening. And I was 18; at 12, it’s almost cruel (but, then again, maybe the sooner the better…).
That said, the producers need to work a little more on the questions. In the first round last Sunday, one of them asked who was the winner of this year’s Big Brother. Come on, I would give points to kids who didn’t know that! (they all did, alas) Big Brother, as Australia’s Brainiest Kid, is on Channel Ten.
One other question gave away one of the major plot points of the latest Harry Potter book (and all of the kids knew the answer to that as well); ok, it is a well-known book among kids by now, but I think it’s still a little too recent for them to give part of the ending away on national TV.