Do you watch Kid Nation? Okay, I do. I'm not saying it's the thing I watch that I am always most proud of, especially when I find myself briefly wishing ill on children. But if you have no other reason to watch it, you should watch it just to appreciate the awesome Laurel.
Twelve-year-old Laurel is a remarkably grounded, normal, self-possessed kid from somewhere in Massachusetts that has given her that bad-ass Boston-y accent I kind of can't resist in anyone. In her CBS profile, she declares that her favorite world leader is Jesus Christ, but also objects to the portrayal of women in the media (!) and has this to say about the worst presidents in history: "I'm not sure if President Bush will read this (probably not) and I don't want to hurt his feelings but I am not too happy with his decisions." She finishes, "He doesn't seem real bright like a president should be." She says some cringeworthy things about immigrants, but honestly, the fact that she can hold in her head the fact that you can hold some beliefs that liberals hold and other beliefs that conservatives hold still pleases me. She'll get older; she'll work it all out.
On the show, Laurel is easily the most respected kid in the whole fake town. To return to a concept taught in my college Sociology class, some of the other kids have power, but Laurel alone has authority. In other words, the rest of the council has the actual ability to create consequences, and can get people to do things because they can give out the gold star and whatnot. But Laurel has actual authority, meaning that people have accepted her as a real live leader, so when she suggests that something should be a done a certain way, it's likely that her explanation will be received favorably, because her blessing on an idea has come to mean a lot.
Remarkably, when each "district" (team, really) was given the chance to pick a new leader, nobody on the green team she was then leading even took any interest in running against Laurel. They all just pretty much said, "You rock; we're fine." This despite the fact that the team was losing challenges like mad and riding near the bottom of the artificial socioeconomic ladder almost every week as a result. They didn't care; they like her. They trust her.
The kid has a near-flawless moral compass embedded in her brain: she hates bullies, prefers to resolve disputes and allow all sides to retain as much dignity as possible, does not put up with prima donnas, expects everyone to do their share of the work, generously gives credit where it's due, and cheers for everyone in every situation.
At the end of last week's talent-show episode, she busted out an a cappella version of "Amazing Grace" that was simple, unadorned, and lovely -- sounding just like a talented kid should sound, and not like a pageant contestant or the next American Idol.
Some kids on this show honestly must make their parents want to crawl under the couch and cry, even if they don't admit it. I hope Laurel's parents are getting a kick out of watching her, because she is a credit to them. She is awesome. I want her to be twenty years older so we can be pals.
Finally, the Boy Scouts can reconcile their dedication to exploration and community service with their burning desire to be on reality television. In a new series slated for the Outdoor Channel, most of whose shows involve shooting at things, the Boy Scouts of America and and Boys' Life magazine will team up to produce the show Scouting for Adventure, Presented by Boys' Life. The six-episode series will follow Scouts as they explore the wilderness and learn outdoor skills and teamwork at Scout camps across the country.