Last week, environmentalist Peter Gleick penned an editorial about a Toys "R" Us commercial from October that, frustratingly, decries hard science in favor of running amok in a toy store.
"My wife and I were relaxing, watching TV when we saw this advertisement from Toys "R" Us. We were struck speechless with shock and anger," he writes. "The camera pans around the bus at bored, tired, yawning kids. Then, surprise! He reveals they are not going on a natural science field trip at all, but to... Toys "R" Us! Celebration! Confetti littering the ground as the kids run from the bus into the store!"
Gleick condemned the commercial for its demeaning presentation of science, and for the frustrating irony in that our society is currently fighting low STEM interest. He argues that it reinforces the values that permitted the United States to fall behind in those fields.
Here is the controversial commercial from Toys 'R' Us:
Gleick's column was a little late to the discussion, since former Jon Stewart correspondent and legendary satirist Stephen Colbert referred to the commercial during a "Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger" segment of his nightly news satire show, The Colbert Report.
"Toys 'R' Us has really captured the magic of having a stranger take your kids on a bus, lie about where they're going, then take off their clothes and promise them toys," Colbert joked on Nov. 6. "This commercial shows kids the 'great outdoors' is nothing compared to the majesty of a strip mall. And they still get some nature because, remember, that confetti used to be a tree!"
Gleick believes Colbert nailed the commercial's message, and that something needs to be done immediately. "My wife is an overworked, underpaid science educator, teaching university students how to teach science to elementary school children... It is an uphill battle because the resources our society devotes to science education are pathetic," he said.
The editor of Grist, Jess Zimmerman, had a comment as well, although she chose to air on the side of brevity. "You heard it here, kids," she wrote. "Consumerism is great, nature is lousy, who cares about trees, let’s go buy a princess doll."[Image via that commercial]