"Mision Nutrition" for Nat. Nutrition Month
    by John Cech

You're hearing one of the actresses who belongs to the group that calls itself the Standard Deviants, discussing a point of nutritional information from one of the group's PBS television programs, "Mission Nutrition." Theirs is a leading edge of a new wave of hip, educational movies -- the next generation of those films that used to be shown in health classes in every post-World War II American school. Here, the narrators -- all young actors, singers, and stand-up comediens -- are way cooler and way closer to the ages of their intended audiences than those droning, stentorian voice-overs that used to explain things to kids and young people for decades.

The Standard Deviants are the performance wing of a larger, enterpreneurial, educational company called Cerebellum which produces videos, study guides, and other materials on subjects that range from Algebra to Shakepeare's Tragedies -- some struggling math students might wish to attach the tragic suffix to their subject, too. But the idea of the Standard Deviants' approach to learning is to make even these and many other difficult subjects at least palatable -- to be the spoonful of sugar to sweeten the hard work that we all know they still require. A little more than three hundred years ago, the English philosopher, John Locke advanced, along with his conception of the mind as a tabula raza or clean slate, the notion that education was most effective when one was engaged. He even proposed the then radical idea of offering something amusing or entertaining to make the lesson more memorable -- a picture, say, or a poem, a story or a song. And the Standard Deviants are still following this good advice. Here's their unplugged version of the second food group, "bread, cereal, rice, and pasta":

Copyright 2002 by John Cech

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:19:29 EDT

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."